I've put together the following "reading list" in preparation for my novel project. I'm beginning to think that maybe I should write the other one instead whilst I'm doing science fiction preparation ... but I'm not really in a rush. Anyhow:
Aliens and Alien Societies by Stanley Schmidt
The Cartoon Guide to Genetics by Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis
The Cartoon Guide to Physics by Gonick and Huffman
(these two are science-for-dumbies books on a couple of topics that I might need to have a better grasp on. Depending on how much I get from this, it's likely I'll look for more.)
45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Borderlands of Science by Charles Sheffield (on order)
Genderspeak: Men, Women and the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Hadin Elgin
Possibly "How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card. I've read this book before, but a refresher wouldn't hurt.
So midway between research, looking for further inspiration, and sounding out where I have weak spots.