The Bossy Bookworm
Six More Fantastic Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels
After the World Falls Apart
I have a fascination with postapocalyptic and dystopian books, and I think it's for the same reason I'm captivated by wartime stories: the books are about characters being pushed to their limits by an incredibly challenging situation, and they show their true selves and abilities.
I hope you'll also check out the books on my first Greedy Reading List of Six Fantastic Dystopian and Postapocalyptic Novels.
Which dystopian or postapocalyptic books have fascinated you?
01 Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson
Robots, time travel, teen angst, and this gorgeous cover. Yes to all of this. I didn't anticipate the twists Johnson provides, and I was delighted by each of them.
Goddess in the Machine is more than just a gorgeous cover. Lora Beth Johnson had me hooked immediately by the premise and Andra's voice.
Teenage Andra finally wakes up after being cryogenically preserved for a century-long journey to a new planet. She's a little creaky and sore, sure, but she's ready to be reunited with the team, which includes her mother and the rest of her family, plus many others involved in the complex project. They'll begin the work of bravely populating and building a new life on this planet.
Except...Andra soon realizes she wasn't sleeping for 100 years. She was asleep for 1,000. The people, terrain, and language are not what she studied for or expected, everyone she once knew has already lived and died--oh, and the general population, whoever they are, thinks she's a goddess, and they've been waiting excitedly for her to wake up and save them.
I didn't anticipate the twist/double twist here, and I loved being surprised again and again. For my full review, please see Goddess in the Machine.
02 Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gideon’s speech is modern and biting, there are darkly funny moments, and the friendships and loyalty resonate in a lovely way.
The tone of Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth was unlike any fantasy novel I’ve read, and the friendships and loyalty that develop seem impossible, yet resonate in a lovely way. It’s really a fascinating book.
I read this during Pandemic Times, which slowed me down and also, I believe, made it tougher than it should’ve been for me to differentiate between some of the secondary characters. (They’re also each called by multiple titles and names, which became slightly jumbled in my mind at times.)
The settings are so stark and unique and clearly built that I think the general sense of this book is going to haunt me for a long time. And the ending—!
This is the first in Muir's Locked Tomb series, and I'm currently listening to the second, Harrow the Ninth. The third book, Nona the Ninth, was published in fall 2022.
For my full review, check out Gideon the Ninth.
03 Machinehood by S.B. Divya
Space! Robots! Artificial intelligence! Divya has crafted strong female main protagonists who navigate the sometimes dark, always complicated pressures of life in 2095--as they try to save the world.
In her debut novel, Divya sets the scene in the world of 2095. Humanity around the world is reliant on homemade and commercially manufactured pills--for health, for work focus, for managing bots, for healing, for sleep, and for transitioning between all of the above.
I wished for more page time spent on everyday tasks and activities (cooking, shifting household modules, travel, and communicating), which were all carried out in Jetsons-level, fascinating, futuristic ways.
But Divya is too busy crafting strong female main protagonists (complete with working mother guilt, which exists in the future too).
The management of many large-scale issues and their side effects are shown in shades of gray rather than black-and-white, including the meaning and value of personhood; the definitions of health, autonomy, and freedom; sometimes-necessary compromises; and the promise for the future of the world.
For my full review, check out Machinehood.
04 Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long
I was hooked by Meg Long's debut young adult science fiction novel about tough young Sena, her skittish fighting wolf Iska, and their desperate journey across the ice.
In the young adult science fiction novel Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, young Sena has lost both of her mothers to the brutal sled races on her frozen planet. Since then she's had to be scrappy, creative, and above all, tough.
When she angers a local warlord and becomes eager to escape her world, she's relieved to secure promises of transport out--but those who would help her have one condition: she must help them take part in the planet's most infamous sled race.
In Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, Long offers an intriguing story of brutal conditions, determined survival, hard-earned loyalty, grudging friendship, and a stubborn overcoming of various vivid dangers. I was hooked by Long's world-building, her evocative, immersive descriptions of the cold climate, and by tough, grumpy Sena, who has a big heart and a soft spot for Iska, her personality counterpart in wolf form.
To see my full review, check out Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves.
05 How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Nagamatsu's science fiction centers around a resurgence of an ancient Arctic plague. These interconnected stories are odd, fascinating, and sometimes panic-inducing, yet they offer glimmers of hope. I was intrigued by all of it.
It's 2030, and an archaeologist in the Arctic Circle discovers a body perfectly preserved in the permafrost.
His personal situation is complicated by his grief for his recently deceased daughter, and he aims to continue the research work she began.
The interconnected stories here are made up of strange, affecting situations. In one circumstance, referred to in the book's title, there is a captivating, dark, in-between world of floating, nebulous memories that highlights humans’ struggles to connect to each other.
How High We Go in the Dark combines linked elements that wind through the book. Characters appear in the backgrounds of others’ stories; a necklace disappears from one story in the Arctic and reappears in a casual mention around the neck of another character across the world in another time; and we see varied points of view regarding aspects of the same stories.
For my full review, please see How High We Go in the Dark.
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.