Gods, I love that stuff.
It's been strange, re-reading the Heinlein, who was probably the first author to introduce me to this sort of universe. Some of the novels have held up pretty well; I really enjoyed re-reading the one about the Mars colonists and the Martians. Some, like Rocket Ship Galileo, were astonishingly painful to read. Not just horribly dated, but implausible and clunky on so many levels. I'm pretty sure I liked that book a lot when I read it as a kid, but it just doesn't reward re-reading at all. Ah well.
I've had mixed feelings about John's book (sorry, John!), which I've been meaning to read forever. On the one hand, I found it quite inventive, bringing some interesting and unique concepts to the standard military space landscape. On the other hand, most of the first half was pretty solid info-dump, with conveniently placed characters to provide said information. Plus, there was a whole lot of specifics of military maneuvering, which I wouldn't call an actual flaw in the book -- I'm sure there are a ton of readers who love that, but it doesn't do it for me, and I ended up skimming over most of it. And yet, in the end, I think I might recommend the book after all, because the main character is interesting (if a bit Mary Sue-ish in his startling competence), and the core story is surprisingly sweet and strong. I actually got a bit choked up at the end.
Going forward, I do think reading these books is helping me clarify what I want to do with mine. Tons of character stuff. Strong world-building. Cool aliens, also with tons of character stuff. Sense of wonder. Political maneuverings. Some fast-paced action, which is new for me (unless you count sex scenes :-)! Worlds at stake, or possibly an entire civilization. At least a little bit of good versus evil, but with some moral complexity thrown in. Children to protect. Tangled family messes. Violence. True love.
I wrote half a chapter yesterday, when Lori was over being industrious at me. She's coming back today, and I'm hoping to write the other half of the third chapter, give the whole book so far a once over, and then show it to an editor, see what he thinks. Sounds like fun. Much more fun than packing. :-)
(Luckily for us, Jarmila is willing to pick up some extra money helping us with packing. Especially useful right now since I'm getting to the stage of pregnancy where bending is difficult. I can sit on the floor and sort stuff, or wander around and pull things off shelves, but actually putting items in boxes is surprisingly hard.)