Space Stories I've Loved
I'm captivated by stories about space--the unknown, the possibilities, the unimaginable challenges, the often-unforgiving conditions, the authors' worldbuilding--and the books listed here are a few of my absolute favorites.
Because I love the series so very much, I have separate posts for Martha Wells's Murderbot series, set in deep space. Here are my glowing reviews of the first three installments and here is my gushing take on the fourth; you can click here to read about my love for the fifth.
If you're interested in books like this, you might also like the books on these Greedy Reading Lists:
Have you read any of these books? I'd love to hear what you thought!
Have you loved any space-set stories that should go on my next Greedy Reading List of stories set in space?
01 August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
White's first Starmetal Symphony installment offers deadly deep-space robots, showcases the power of music, and illustrates how love can persist even in the face of imminent demise. I loved the main characters' fashion, banter, and stubbornness.
Gus is a jazz pianist whose biggest hope for the pending end of the world was to play at the most epic goodbye party of all time. After all, the Vanguards, giant, deadly AI robots, are headed from deep space to destroy Earth at any moment.
But when the Vanguards arrive, the sudden, brutal ending Gus has envisioned for himself doesn't happen. Instead, Gus and a few other Earthlings are pulled in by a small group of traitorous Vanguards--and tasked with being modified, temporarily melded with the robots, battling other robots--and saving all of humanity.
The robots and the imminent demise of the human race that the robots seem perched to enact serve as a catalyst for the human main characters to assess their own purposes and consider what makes life worth living. They forge desperate, deep connections and struggle with loss and an uncertain future, and I loved the impractical, invigorating, stubborn love in the book.
I also really enjoyed White's Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, the first in the Salvagers series.
Click here for my full review of August Kitko and the Mechas from Space.
02 Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter
Lostetter's standalone science fiction is a story about robots, a ragtag space crew, friends like family, and reimagining one's place in the universe.
Activation Degradation begins with Unit Four's initial activation. It has just become sentient, and like its robot sisters, it has been programmed to fight the aliens currently attacking its ship.
But whether it's a glitch or instincts that shouldn't be possible, Unit Four realizes that the situation as its handler has explained it doesn't quite add up.
When Unit Four is taken onto the enemy alien ship as a prisoner and is unable to communicate with its handler, it begins to understand that all is not black and white, and that it may need to rethink all it has been taught to believe.
Lostetter's book started off with a lot of logistics that slowed things for me, but as of page 66 the action and character development and exploration of morality and friendship and life purpose began clicking along.
Activation Degradation explores what makes a person worth saving--or simply existing--as well as unconventional love and relationships, personal responsibility, sacrifice and bravery, and staying open to revolutionarily new ideas and ways of looking at the world--and the universe.
Click here for my full review of Activation Degradation.
03 Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
In Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir offers the fascinating story of a desperate space mission, creative innovation, and enduring optimism, with an enormous amount of heart that surprised me.
Ryland Grace wakes up as the sole survivor of a last-chance effort to save Earth and its inhabitants.
But he doesn't know that yet. He seems to be in space and isn't sure what has happened, and not only does he not remember his own name or where he's from, he also doesn't remember his scientific expertise or anything else that could help him survive and succeed in his quest. The memories are beginning to slowly shift back into focus, but he needs them now.
He's millions of miles from Earth, and he's got two dead crewmates, a chatty AI robot caregiver, a lot of complicated equipment, and a mysterious mission whose purpose and execution he'll have to unravel if he's to possibly survive--much less save humanity.
In Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir has created another irresistible story of hope, resilience, wonder, and discovery.
Andy Weir is also the author of The Martian and Artemis.
One of my few reading regrets is not having listened to this as an audiobook.
For my full review, please check out Project Hail Mary.
04 The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers
Chambers's science fiction is full of heart, heartbreak, and hope--with a fascinating backdrop of space travel and interspecies relations.
In The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the first science fiction title in Becky Chambers's Wayfarers series, young Rosemary feels lucky to have landed the job of clerk for the quirky, ragtag, but welcoming crew of the Wayfarer ship.
The group is made up of various creatures from around the galaxy, and they've already built bonds through working together for ages. Yet they make room in the mix for Rosemary, who's grateful--and who's frankly glad to leave her significant personal troubles behind.
Chambers's story is science fiction that's full of heart, heartbreak, and hope. The book feels much more focused on the characters--with a backdrop of space travel and otherworldly creatures--than on exploration or adventure. Much of the story is about acceptance and openness and finding ways to get along. Interspecies relations are prickly, comfortable, romantic, puzzling, or all of the above.
I love that the crew of the Wayfarer feels like a close-knit group of summer camp counselors somehow, palling around, sometimes irritating each other, each with special gifts and the ability and desire to help crewmates reach their full potentials, emotionally or otherwise.
I just adored this. For my full review, check out The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.
05 The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow is about everything. Family, pain, love, music, influence, trust, wonder, brutality, invention, discovery, loyalty, and most of all, faith—in some cases, lost and found again. And also...aliens.
In The Sparrow, humans find proof of extraterrestrial life, and the UN begins deliberating about those on Earth should proceed.
Meanwhile, a small team from the Society of Jesus quickly strikes out on its own to approach the planet first. The life they find there is wondrous and overwhelming, and it forces them to rethink their assumptions about humanity and the universe.
I don’t usually read books again these days (I'm too greedy), but I could use a copy of this book to highlight upon rereading.
The Sparrow took a little time to get going for me, but then I was blown away.
For my full review of this book, please see The Sparrow.
06 The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Romy's soaring hopes, her vulnerability and then her growing doubts, her self-reliance and quick thinking, and the shifts and twists of the book all kept me hooked for this quick read. I loved this.
Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to--someone who is light years away?
This young adult science fiction story has an irresistible premise: teenaged Romy is the sole survivor on her spaceship, which is en route to establishing an outpost on a new planet. She's on her own out there in space, and as lonely as any human could imagine being.
There's no hope of seeing another human again anytime soon. Her sole communication outlet is with her NASA contact, Molly, who sends her audio messages (and occasionally forwards along episodes of Romy's favorite TV show). But then Romy gets word that another ship has launched from earth, with a young man called J as the pilot.
Romy is on her own in space, haunted by the events that led to her solo venture. Her self-reliance, romanticized ideas, quick thinking, and strength of character, along with the shifts and twists of the book, all kept me hooked.
For my full review, please see The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.