Six Science Fiction Favorites to Dive Into
Science Fiction Faves
I've been giving book talks lately about stories I've loved and upcoming titles I'm excited about, and I've seen some eyes-glazing-over reactions when I gush about science fiction books.
I love character-driven science fiction stories. Sci-fi books can be so lovely and weird and immersive, and the stories can dive into so many fascinating big-deal issues, like feeling a greater purpose, facing a deep responsibility to other beings, undertaking noble missions, bravely exploring new worlds, or finding common ground with those who are different from you.
Have you read any of these books? I'd love to hear what you thought. Which other books should I add to my science fiction to-read list?
01 Recursion by Blake Crouch
Recursion is more fantastic character-driven science fiction from Blake Crouch. I cared about Sutton and Smith and their mission.
Blake Crouch's Barry Sutton is a NYC detective looking into a suicide. Helena Smith is a neuroscientist creating technology to preserve memories and allow people to relive them.
People like the victim Sutton is investigating are told that their vivid recollections of their life’s memories are not real, and that they’re actually mentally ill, suffering from False Memory Syndrome. When they encounter loved ones from their memories who are now living alternate lives, in many cases they are unable to cope with their conflicting realities.
While Sutton begins digging into what’s real and what’s a lie, Smith works feverishly to preserve memories and reality. Together, they have to identify and confront dark forces that might be manipulating—and destroying—the minds and the framework of society as we know it.
Recursion also appears in the Greedy Reading List Six Riveting Time-Travel Escapes.
02 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 just adored this.
Click here for my full review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.
03 The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
This sci-fi thriller is about betrayal and revenge, but it's not the other-woman story you might expect.
Evelyn Caldwell is a brilliant scientist who has long enjoyed an inspiring professional relationship with her husband, also a scientist. She's winning awards and well-deserved international attention for her incredible genetic cloning advancements--but people have noticed that her husband has recently been mysteriously absent from her side as she collects her many honors.
This sci-fi thriller is about the forces that drive apart a husband and wife, and the story is about betrayal and revenge, but I hadn't read the premise before I started reading, and I almost dropped the book when I realized what was going on, I was so shocked by the setup--it's not your usual cheating-husband situation.
There are loops and layers to Gailey's story that have to do with identity, autonomy, freedom, shaping others to suit your expectations and desires--and recognizing how you're shaped by others in turn. I loved the characters' unanticipated loyalty to unlikely parties and their hard-won emotional growth.
I was hooked on this one and couldn't wait to find out what happened. I'd love to watch this in movie form.
For my full review, see The Echo Wife.
04 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 the future--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 pills--for health, for work focus, for sleep, and for transitioning between all of the above.
The economy runs on robots, partially augmented humans, and humans desperately trying to compete with artificial intelligence and survive in the gig economy.
Welga Ramirez is an elite bodyguard who is former special forces, and she's on the verge of retirement. Then the unthinkable happens: her team's client is murdered. Violent crimes really don't happen anymore, and society is thrown into a tailspin.
In the midst of a global panic, Welga is drawn back into intelligence work in order to identify and fight a new enemy--one that may turn out to be a new incarnation of an old nemesis.
Many large-scale issues are shown in interesting 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, please see Machinehood. This book was mentioned in the Greedy Reading List Six Great Stories about Robots, Humans and Alien Life, and AI.
05 Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy
Young adult Josie's origins--specifically her immaculate conception--have overshadowed everything else in her life. Now she must delve into the darkness of her history to try to save her mother--and uncover her own true identity.
Young adult Josie is Girl One, the first of nine baby girls who were famously conceived without male sperm years ago on the now-dismantled commune The Homestead.
Josie has spent her life plagued by criticism, misogyny, obsessed fans, and the weight of the fascinating, unusual circumstances of her conception.
When her mother disappears, Josie begins to track down the other Girls, and together the young women discover strange, unique powers as they rely on each other and attempt to unravel their shared history. They're learning to trust that the circumstances of their creation do not determine their full identities--or what they're capable of.
Murphy presents the Girls as they emerge in all of their feminist, powerful glory. The journey isn't too easy, there are some identity realizations, love connections, and plot twists, and the ending of Girl One satisfied me.
For my full review, please see Girl One.
06 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.
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.
There are some funny exchanges because of the differences in characters' languages. At one point Andra calls her friend Zhade (who is from a time 1,000 years past her origin time) an insult ("a-hole"), which horrifies and fascinates him. He says "That is a massive yet disgusting insult. I reck [reckon] I was born about a thousand years too late. I missed all the best words."
For my full review, please see Goddess in the Machine. This book was mentioned in the Greedy Reading List Six Great Stories about Robots, Humans and Alien Life, and AI.