Science fiction is called the “literature of ideas” for a reason. Not only it explores the potential consequences of scientific innovation, but also efficiently separates itself from supernatural stuff, thus making it more of a science and less of a fantasy.
So how would you exactly define science fiction? Don’t worry if you didn’t come up with a suitable answer. It is actually very difficult to describe.
A sci-fi movie or a novel is largely built upon logical writing about alternative worlds. A good sci-fi can spark our imagination, motivate us to pursue them, but also warn and raise questions about the impending risks. So here are our 15 favorite sci-fi books to read this year.
Image Courtesy: Tor Books
Author: Cory Doctorow
The conjuncture of this adult sci-fi novel is a near future utopia, where people are voluntarily walking away from most of the social interaction due to the fatten toxic political and social environment. The walkaways are opting out of the so-called “work for food” and living in polluted, hazardous areas in one corner of the world instead.
The number of poor people is reducing day by day, and a lot of jobs are now being taken away by machine automation. Instead of making amends, riches treat “walkaways” like they are the main culprits.
The story revolves around three characters; Hubert Espinoza, also known as “Hubert, Etc” (because of 19 middle names), Seth, a friend of Hubert, and Natalie Redwater, a rich girl who convinces both Hubert and Seth to walkaway from the day to day world.
Image Courtesy: MCD
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
The book takes you to a un-named ruined city of the future, ruled by an autocratic bear known as Mord. A woman named Rachel, who also lives there, makes her living as a scavenger, gathering sophisticated genetically engineered creatures produced by a biotech firm, known as the “Company”. Mord was once the part of the company as a test subject until he grew insane and flew out.
The insanity drives Mord to terrorize the city while providing the means of living for the scavengers. One day, Rachel finds out about Borne, a sea creature lurking inside Mord’s fur. What happens next changes the small world of Rachel maybe for the best or does it?
13. Six Wakes
Image Courtesy: Orbit Books
Author: Mur Lafferty
It’s a sci-fi murder mystery. The story begins on a generation ship carrying a load of sleeping humans to a newly found planet. On board is an AI, named IAN, who is responsible for protecting the humans. Making up the ship’s crew is the six clones, who are reformed criminals and hoping for a clean start.
They suddenly find themselves waking up from their cloning vets to a mass murder scene. The victims are being the clone’s predecessors. Because there is no one on board, it must have been one of them, but the problem is that no one has any memory of it. Six clones and six different viewpoints, with the potential murderer on the ship, the crew tries to figure who is the culprit.
12. An Excess Male
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Author: Maggie Shen King
China’s one-child policy was a part of family planning, which was enforced in 1979 and was legally phased out by 2015. But what would happen in the future, if the one-child policy was still in effect? That’s the central plot of newcomer author Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male. It is a frightening tale of social inequality, love, politics, and rebellion.
The novel envisages China, where one-child policy and preference for a male child leads to a society full of unmarried young men. A world where women can lawfully engage with three men and have one child with each.
11. All Our Wrong Todays
Image Courtesy: Penguin
Author: Elan Mastai
Tom Barren, the central character in this sci-fi novel lives in 2016, but it is not anything like today. Instead, it’s more about the future, where we have flying cars, moon bases and other Jetson-like technologies and the reason for this is a man named Lionel Goettreider, who discovered an engine that created unlimited clean energy.
His father, who eventually invented the time-travel machine, gives Tom a job in his lab and co-assigned him for the first ever time travel mission. Being an unsuccessful son and following a few mishaps, he decided to launch himself back in 1965, where he inadvertently changes the initial result of Goettreider’s experiment.
Due to the emergency return feature in his machine, Tom travels back to 2016, but this was not the world from where he left in the first place, instead he wakes up in the current world, where his mother is alive, and his father is happier in a hostile new world. In a continuous attempt to rectify his mistake, he develops a bond with his surroundings.
10. The Moon and the Other
Image Courtesy: Simon & Schuster
Author: John Kessel
The story takes us to the middle of the 22nd Century, where more than three million people are living in different underground cities below the surface of the moon. One such city is the Society of Cousins, a matriarchal society where men can choose any career, but don’t have any right to vote in political decisions. Things start to boil up after foreign speculations.
The first war on Moon erupts when a team from the Organization of Lunar States revealed the actual condition of men in the Society of Cousins.
Image Courtesy: Tor Books
Author: Annalee Newitz
Autonomous is a robin hood esque tale, where Jack, a pharmaceutical pirate supply medicine to the poor. But her latest drug is causing upheaval across the world, causing people to become insanely addicted to work. To stop Jack, an emotionally null agent named Elias is paired with paladin, a military robot who falls in love with his partner.
The book revolves around the activities of pharmaceutical pirate Jack with her crew and agents Elias and Paladin to stop the drug outbreak that’s affecting human lives.
8. Ender’s Game
Image Courtesy: Tor Books
Author: Orson Scott Card
It is the 1980s, military science fiction set in the future, where mankind is threatened by two worn-out wars with an alien species known as “buggers”. In anticipation of a third alien invasion in the near future, young ones, including the leading character of this novel, Ender Wiggin, are trained in special ways through complex games in zero gravity.
Image Courtesy: Ace Books
Author: Samuel R. Delany
This 1960s, sci-fi novel concerns with the power of language. Sometime in the future, the humanity is engaged in a bloody war with the raiders, who are sabotaging any defense strategies, killing officials and targeting spaceships. In the middle of all, the military force stumbles upon an enemy code. At first, it seems unbreakable, and their only hope is a former code-breaker and poet Rydra Wong, who is now determined to break the code by understanding the language.
6. The Sirens of Titan
Image Courtesy: Dell Publishing, Delacorte
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Malachi Constant, the richest person on the Earth, is offered with a chance to travel to space with the most beautiful women alongside him, but there is a catch. The novel is an appalling ride through time and space and mortality. Most of the story revolves around a Martian invasion of the Earth.
5. The Stars My Destination
Author: Alfred Bester
In a world, where “jaunting” (teleportation) is the principal mode of transportation, Gully Foyle, the most unlikely protagonist in any story, will take you to places that you have never imagined. A place where the rich protect themselves in huge maze-like structures and outcasts are the most dangerous people alive.
Without any goal or ambition, Foyle is only content with his survival. However, it was threatened when he finds himself trapped inside a ship during the planetary war between inner and outer planets.
4. First Lensman
Author: Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith
Virgil Samms, a space traveler visits the planet Arisia for the very first time. Here he becomes the first person to wear the Lens, a great symbol of Law and Order. Now, as a Lensman, he forms a universal force known as Galactic Patrol.
It’s an elite force of fellow lensman. With un-parallel fighting and flying skills, greater stealth and incorruptible mindset, these fighters dedicated their lives to protect the universe from the worse threat that is about to come.
Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin
We is a sci-fi, dystopian novel, first published in 1924 in the United States. Due to the nature of this book, it was banned in Russia until 1988. To summarize, this book describes the state of harmony in the totalitarian state of the United States.
Yevgeny Zamyatin tells a story, where United States citizens are not individuals, but numbers and lives in indistinguishable glass apartments, with their actions being regulated. The main belief of the community is that happiness and freedom are incompatible. It envisions a futuristic totalitarian society, where individualism is totally eradicated and everyone is a part of a much greater organism.
2. The Stone Sky
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Author: N. K. Jemisin
It’s the third volume in the award-winning series Broken Earth. The story takes us to a supercontinent called Stillness. The book was included in various lists of best upcoming sci-fi and fictions. According to reviewers and critics, Jemisin is most likely to win a third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Novel, after The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate.
1. The Left Hand of Darkness
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
The book, The Left Hand of Darkness embraces the aspects of society, psychology, and emotion on an alien land, just the way a true science fiction should be. In a nutshell, it is a story of a lone human in an alien world, where the inhabitants can freely choose their gender.
The story revolves around Genly Ai, who is handed with a mission to gather other nations to join a confederation. But when he lands on Gethen, he gets quite confused by the culture of Gethen as inhabitants are “ambisexual”, meaning no fixed sex. It was among the first books in the feminist science fiction genre.