2018 Science Fiction Summer Reading List

Alien Beach by axiom-concepts

The best science fiction books of 2017 were full of stories about kick-ass women. For this year’s summer list, there’s a variety of stories about climate change dystopia, alien invasions, and old-fashioned murder mysteries on Mars.

 

15
The Feed
by Nick Clark Windo – 2018

The Feed is accessible everywhere, by everyone, at any time. It instantaneously links us to all information and global events as they break. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it; it is the essential tool everyone relies on to know and understand the thoughts and feelings of partners, parents, friends, children, colleagues, bosses, employees… in fact, of anyone and everyone else in the world.

Tom and Kate use the Feed, but Tom has resisted its addiction, which makes him suspect to his family. After all, his father created it. But that opposition to constant connection serves Tom and Kate well when the Feed collapses after a horrific tragedy shatters the world as they know it.

The Feed’s collapse, taking modern society with it, leaves people scavenging to survive. Finding food is truly a matter of life and death. Minor ailments, previously treatable, now kill. And while the collapse has demolished the trappings of the modern world, it has also eroded trust. In a world where survival of the fittest is a way of life, there is no one to depend upon except yourself… and maybe even that is no longer true.

“The fast pace and absorbing plot will keep readers racing to the end.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

14
Blackfish City
by Sam J. Miller – 2018

After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.

When a strange new visitor arrives—a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side—the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people—each living on the periphery—to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.

“Surprisingly heartwarming… An action-packed science fiction thriller.”
— Washington Post

13
Zero Limit
by Jeremy K. Brown – 2018

For war hero Caitlin Taggart, mining work on the Moon is dirty, low pay, and high risk. But no risk seems too extreme if it helps her return to Earth and the daughter she loves more than life itself. Offered a dangerous, long-shot chance to realize that dream, Caitlin will gamble with more than just her life.

But when an unexpected disaster strikes the mission, Caitlin is plunged into a race to save not only herself, but every human being on Earth.

“Funny, grim, and technical but not oppressively so, this story of sacrifice born of love, duty, and redemption should appeal to any SF fan.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

12
Borne
by Jeff VanderMeer – 2017

In a ruined city littered with discarded experiments from a now-defunct biotech firm, a woman named Rachel finds a strangely charismatic green lump (plant? animal? something else?) and names it Borne. Borne learns to speak and is fun to be with, and in a world so broken Borne’s innocence is a precious thing.

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of Rachel’s sanctuary at risk. For it seems the biotech firm may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

“VanderMeer’s talent for immersive world-building and stunning imagery is on display in this weird, challenging, but always heartfelt novel.”
— Booklist (starred review)

11
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
by Kelly Robson – 2018

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

“Brilliantly structured… with a delicious tension carefully developed among the wonderful characters.”
― The New York Times

10
Void Star
by Zachary Mason – 2017

Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying, but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco, where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from aging.

Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built slums on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely―the mathematically inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead.

A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. No one is safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight.

9
Yesterday’s Kin
by Nancy Kress – 2014

In this Nebula and Locus winner, aliens have landed in New York. After several months of no explanations, they finally reveal the reason for their arrival.

The news is not good.

Geneticist Marianne Jenner is having a career breakthrough, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Her children Elizabeth and Ryan constantly bicker, agreeing only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Her youngest, Noah, is addicted to a drug that keeps temporarily changing his identity. The Jenner family could not be further apart. But between the four of them, the course of human history will be forever altered.

“Kress has proven that she can pack a huge amount of story into a small container.”
— Library Journal

8
The Engines of God
by Jack McDevitt – 1994

Humans call them the Monument-Makers. An unknown race, they left stunning alien statues on distant planets in the galaxy. Each relic is different. Each inscription defies translation. Yet all are heartbreakingly beautiful.

And for planet Earth, on the brink of disaster, they may hold the only key to survival for the entire human race.

“McDevitt (The Hercules Text, not reviewed) is at his best award-winning style in this intelligent and wide-ranging novel.”
— Kirkus Reviews

7
One Way
by S. J. Morden – 2018

Frank Kittridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer, so when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations—the corporation that owns the prison—he takes it. He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is.

As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply.

Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all…

“Sharp thriller in a crisply imagined near future…Morden makes the science accessible as he steadily ratchets up the tension and paranoia, fully utilizing the starkly beautiful but utterly deadly setting.”
― Publishers Weekly

6
Lock In
by John Scalzi – 2014

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent—and nearly five million souls in the United States alone—the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, two FBI agents investigate a murder, with a suspect who is an “integrator”—someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a locked in person, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

As the FBI agents unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery—and the real crime—is bigger than anyone could have imagined.

“A smart, thoughtful near-future thriller…. This powerful novel will intrigue and entertain both fans and newcomers.”
― Publishers Weekly (starred review)

5
Planetfall
by Emma Newman – 2015

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

But the truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

“Cathartic and transcendent.”
— The New York Times

4
The Automatic Detective
by A. Lee Martinez – 2008

The Automatic Detective is a fast-paced, funny mishmash of SF and hard-boiled detective story.

Even in Empire City, a town where weird science is the hope for tomorrow, it’s hard for a robot to make his way. It’s even harder for a robot named Mack Megaton, a hulking machine designed to bring mankind to its knees. But Mack’s not interested in world domination. He’s just a bot trying to get by, trying to demonstrate that he isn’t just an automated smashing machine, and to earn his citizenship in the process. It should be as easy as crushing a tank for Mack, but some bots just can’t catch a break.

When Mack’s neighbors are kidnapped, Mack sets off on a journey through the dark alleys and gleaming skyscrapers of Empire City. Along the way, he runs afoul of a talking gorilla, a brainy dame, a mutant lowlife, a little green mob boss, and the secret conspiracy at the heart of Empire’s founders—not to mention more trouble than he bargained for.

“Eccentric characters, all of whom are clever twists on stereotypes, populate a smart, rocket-fast read with a clever, twisty plot that comes to a satisfying conclusion.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

3
Dune
by Frank Herbert – 1965

The most popular science fiction story ever written, for good reason. If you’ve haven’t read Dune yet, move it to the top of your list.

2
Leviathan Wakes
by James S.A. Corey – 2011

Leviathan Wakes is a big, fun space opera, has plenty of sequels, and is better-written that it has any right to be.

Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is an officer on an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are definitely against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

(James S.A. Corey is the pen name used by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)

1
Artemis
by Andy Weir – 2017

When a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, small-time smuggler Jazz can’t say no. The job calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the “swagger” part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems.. because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of the lunar colony Artemis itself.

Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

“An exciting, whip-smart, funny thrill-ride…one of the best science fiction novels of the year.”
— Booklist (starred review)

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