With very few of us on vacation at the beach right now, diving into someone’s deep blue imagination can be just as thrilling as a splash in the ocean.
With an emphasis on more recently-written books, this list should provide fun, thoughtful fare.
Gothic science fiction (or “space goth”) focuses on the macabre, reveling in mystery, darkness, death, decay, madness, and monsters. Bonus goth points if vampires or werewolves appear and are explained non-magically.
There are supernatural elements in some gothic SF, so I recommend relaxing your definitions of what is or isn’t science fiction, and drift down the black river of the irrational into these stories.
I’m a huge fan of Alastair Reynolds and his smart, exciting space operas. So I was surprised to find that his book Terminal World was a surreal steampunk adventure.
I’ve read that the most futuristic-sounding technologies tend to be ones that could be achieved in the next fifty years. Oddly, if you made that list today (flying cars, bases on the moon, self-aware AI), it’d be similar to that list made 50 years ago.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is ridiculously fun. If a nerd got three wishes from a genie, experiencing what happens in this book would be one of them.
Afrofuturism is not just “the future with black people in it.” Its stories tend to focus on black identity, African mythology, and alternate histories involving the African Diaspora (the movement of people from Africa due to slavery).
Here’s me, a white guy, explaining a black culture thing. For a more authentic take on afrofuturism, read Jamie Broadnax’s (founder of Black Girl Nerds) “What The Heck Is Afrofuturism?”
As a straight white middle-aged male, I’ve often felt like science fiction’s target demographic. Most SF feels like it’s aimed right at me.
Midnight Robber is definitely not aimed at me. Which, honestly, made it a lot more interesting. Being extremely well written helped a lot, too.
As one of the most popular franchises in movie and TV history, Star Trek is not lacking for extensive and thoughtful source material.
As of November 2019, approximately 850 novels, short story anthologies, novelizations, and omnibus editions have been published.
Star Trek books are often ignored (sometimes rightly so) by review sites like Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if a certain book sounds like your cup of Earl Grey tea (hot).
This YA book has a great premise: on a distant planet, in a town with only men, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts. Todd, the youngest person in town and a month away from manhood, slowly learns that everyone is keeping a horrible secret from him. He is forced to flee with his only friend, a talking dog. They discover the most surprising thing Todd’s ever seen: a living girl.
The excellent books of The Expanse series are full of mystery, space battles, a strange alien material, and interplanetary politics. If you’ve burned through them (like I have) and want more, here are some books that might help scratch that itch.
If you haven’t read The Expanse, you’re in luck: you have lots of books in your future.
- Leviathan Wakes
- Caliban’s War
- Abaddon’s Gate
- Cibola Burn
- Nemesis Games
- Babylon’s Ashes
- Persepolis Rising
- Tiamat’s Wrath