With reality feeling stranger every day, it’s nice to tuck into a book filled with the delightfully unreal, and in 2022, science fiction authors delivered exactly this.
Ben isn’t exactly a genius, but he has an immense breadth of knowledge. Whether it’s natural science (specifically the intricacies of bug sex), or vintage timepieces, he can spout facts and information with the best of experts. He just can’t explain why he knows any of it. Another thing he knows is the location of the Chime. What it is or why it’s important, he can’t say.
But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble, as a trash-talking, flesh construct bounty hunter is on his tail and looking to sell him to the highest bidder. And being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice won’t be enough to get him out of it.
“Where Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended towels, this slapstick and semisweet space opera sends its Earthlings out among the aliens armed only with a jar of pickles… Readers are in for a treat.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
Thirty years after The Great Fatigue infected the globe—and the treatment regressed most of the human race to a primitive state—Seth Keller makes a gruesome discovery in his adoptive father’s makeshift lab. This revelation forces him to leave the safety of his desert home and the only other person left in the world… at least, as far as he knows.
Three thousand miles away in the jungles of Costa Rica, Sarah Peoples has made her own discovery—just as horrific, and just as life-changing. It will take her far from the fledgling colony of New Haven, yet never out of reach of its ruthless authoritarian leader.
On separate journeys a world apart, Seth and Sarah find themselves swept up in a deadly race to save humankind. Their fates will come crashing together in an epic struggle between good and evil, where the differences aren’t always clear. Among the grim realities of civilization’s demise, they discover that the remaining survivors may pose an even greater threat than the abominations they were taught to fear.
Fighting for their lives, they’re confronted with a haunting question: does humanity deserve to survive?
“This plotline… unfolds with enough twists and turns to keep readers invested, and the satisfying ending will have readers curious about what Krauss does next.”
(Book 1: A Psalm for the Wild-Built)
After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.
They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.
“[A] lightly drawn but profound meditation on belief, entropy, and the nature of need and want that once again demonstrates Chambers’s prowess as both a storyteller and a thinker. Quiet and contemplative, empathic and warmhearted, this masterful sequel builds on the themes of the first volume to posit a more sustainable, more caring way of life. It’s both truly comforting and endlessly thought-provoking. ”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book 2 of The Final Architecture series
(Book 1: Shards of Earth)
After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artifacts—vestiges of a long-vanished civilization—could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.
Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front of multiple species is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war—even as the Architects loom ever closer.
Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade.
What Idris discovers there will change everything.
“Tchaikovsky again shines with his suspenseful second Final Architecture space opera (after Shards of Earth)… Tchaikovsky’s intelligent worldbuilding captures the essence of classic space opera, with an intricate plot that whisks readers along on a humorous, sometimes convoluted, but always memorable adventure. Series fans will be eager for more.”
Nick: Failed writer. Failed husband. Dog owner.
Bee: Serial dater. Dress maker. Pringles enthusiast.
One day, their paths cross over a misdirected email. The connection is instant, electric. They feel like they’ve known each other all their lives. So they decide to meet.
While Nick buys a new suit, and gets his courage up, Bee steps away from her desk, and sets off to meet him at a London train station. With their happily-ever-after nearly in hand, what happens next is incredible and threatens to separate them forever.
As their once-in-a-lifetime connection is tested, Nick and Bee will discover whether being together is an impossible chance worth taking.
“Lotz perfectly balances the heavy with the light, and creates a feeling of genuine connection between her protagonists. The eccentric side characters and strong humor meshes nicely with the earnest, tender romance. The result is simply delightful.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
Evie Shao and her sister, Kass, aren’t on speaking terms. Fifteen years ago on a family camping trip, their father and brother vanished. Their dad turned up days later, dehydrated and confused—and convinced he’d been abducted by aliens. Their brother, Jakob, remained missing. The women dealt with it very differently. Kass, suspecting her college-dropout twin simply ran off, became the rock of the family. Evie traded academics to pursue alien conspiracy theories, always looking for Jakob.
When Evie’s UFO network uncovers a new event, she goes to investigate. And discovers Jakob is back. He’s different—older, stranger, and talking of an intergalactic war—but the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. If the family is going to come together to help Jakob, then Kass and Evie are going to have to fix their issues, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and if their brother is telling the truth, possibly an entire space armada, too.
“A rich backstory… a highly satisfying ending… All the stars for Chen’s warmhearted space-travel story.”
-Kirkus, starred review
Bertie and Kate have been best friends since high school. Bertie is a semi-failed cartoonist, working for a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm. Her job depresses her, but not as much as the fact that Kate has recently decided to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When Bertie’s attempts to make Kate stay fail, she suggests the next best thing: a trip to Paris that will hopefully distract the duo from their upcoming separation. The vacation is also a sort of last hurrah, coming during the ceasefire in a series of escalating world conflicts.
One night in Paris, they meet a strange man in a bar who offers them a private tour of the Louvre. The women find themselves alone in the museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. Caught up in a day that keeps repeating itself, Bertie and Kate are eventually separated, and Bertie is faced with a mystery that threatens to derail everything. In order to make her way back to Kate, Bertie has to figure out how much control she has over her future—and her past—and how to survive in an apocalypse when the world keeps refusing to end.
“What do you get when you take Groundhog Day, add a dash of the apocalypse, a little French obsession and mix in female friendship and romantic entanglement? This firecracker of a book that gets weirder and more bizarrely funny the more pages you turn.”
Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.
With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.
But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.
“The heat is on in Mihalik’s addictive Starlight’s Shadow series launch. Mihalik artfully juggles palpable romantic tension and fun action to create an epic page turner. This is sure to excite anyone who likes their space opera with a bit of spice.”
It’s all about blood.
The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.
The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.
For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained Ikenna in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.
Who trained her to keep that a secret.
But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.
“Davenport debuts with an ambitious epic that blurs genre lines, setting futuristic technology against a historical fantasy backdrop… this invigorating debut marks Davenport as a writer to watch.”
In an isolated chateau, as far north as north goes, the baron’s doctor has died. The doctor’s replacement has a mystery to solve: discovering how the Institute lost track of one of its many bodies.
For hundreds of years the Interprovincial Medical Institute has grown by taking root in young minds and shaping them into doctors, replacing every human practitioner of medicine. The Institute is here to help humanity, to cure and to cut, to cradle and protect the species from the apocalyptic horrors their ancestors unleashed.
In the frozen north, the Institute’s body will discover a competitor for its rung at the top of the evolutionary ladder. A parasite is spreading through the baron’s castle, already a dark pit of secrets, lies, violence, and fear. The two will make war on the battlefield of the body. Whichever wins, humanity will lose again.
“[A] fascinating jigsaw puzzle… [that] only gets more intriguing as the novel goes on… Fans of gothic horror will devour it.”
―Booklist, starred review
Dying isn’t any fun… but at least it’s a living.
Mickey7 is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous―even suicidal―the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact. After six deaths, Mickey7 understands the terms of his deal…and why it was the only colonial position unfilled when he took it.
On a fairly routine scouting mission, Mickey7 goes missing and is presumed dead. By the time he returns to the colony base, surprisingly helped back by native life, Mickey7’s fate has been sealed. There’s a new clone, Mickey8, reporting for Expendable duties. The idea of duplicate Expendables is universally loathed, and if caught, they will likely be thrown into the recycler for protein.
Mickey7 must keep his double a secret from the rest of the colony. Meanwhile, life on Niflheim is getting worse. The atmosphere is unsuitable for humans, food is in short supply, and terraforming is going poorly. The native species are growing curious about their new neighbors, and that curiosity has Commander Marshall very afraid. Ultimately, the survival of both lifeforms will come down to Mickey7.
That is, if he can just keep from dying for good.
“A multilayered, wildly entertaining story…Ashton is a talented storyteller and MICKEY7 has something for everyone while also putting a fresh spin on the idea of clones.”
A man wakes up in an unknown landscape, injured and alone.
He used to live in a place called California, but how did he wind up here with a head wound and a bottle of pills in his pocket?
He navigates his surroundings, one rough shape at a time. Here lies a pipe, there a reed that could be carved into a weapon, beyond a city he once lived in.
He could swear his daughter’s name began with a J, but what was it, exactly?
Then he encounters an old man, a crow, and a boy—and realizes that nothing is what he thought it was, neither the present nor the past.
He can’t even recall the features of his own face, and wonders: who am I?
“Yoon finds the tension in the smallest of acts—like heating up a can of soup—and builds suspense by teasing out information about the world, forcing readers to question everything. Fans of The Martian will enjoy this new take on the struggle to survive in an unfamiliar land.”
What if you didn’t have to live with your worst memories?
Across the world, thousands of people are shocked by a notification that they once chose to have a memory removed. Now they are being given an opportunity to get that memory back. Four individuals are filled with new doubts, grappling with the unexpected question of whether to remember unknown events, or to leave them buried forever.
Finn, an Irish architect living in the Arizona desert, begins to suspect his charming wife of having an affair. Mei, a troubled grad school dropout in Kuala Lumpur, wonders why she remembers a city she has never visited. William, a former police inspector in England, struggles with PTSD, the breakdown of his marriage, and his own secret family history. Oscar, a handsome young man with almost no memories at all, travels the world in a constant state of fear.
Into these characters’ lives comes Noor, a psychologist working at the Nepenthe memory removal clinic in London. The process of reinstating patients’ memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into how the program works, she will have to risk everything to uncover the cost of this miraculous technology.
“This high-concept debut asks an interesting question: What if we could edit our memories? … Harkin builds a picture of a world radically altered by a controversial technology and of people who are learning that you can’t change the past without impacting the present. An intellectually and emotionally satisfying thriller.”
Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed―made obsolete―when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.
What they find is shocking: the Aurora, a famous luxury spaceliner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick search of the ship reveals something isn’t right.
Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Messages scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold on to her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.
“Dead Silence mixes horror, mystery and sci-fi into a thrill ride sure to shock you out of your reading rut. This is one of those time-warp books―the ones where you look away from the clock, then look back and it’s suddenly way past your bedtime.”
―BookPage, Starred Review
January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.
Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.
Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.
None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.
On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.
January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.
There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.
But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.
“Smashes together some of the best elements of science fiction and crime to deliver a story in which time is broken . . . As funny and entertaining as it is dark and complex. [A] wildly entertaining combination, along with Hart’s relentless pacing, make this a rare hybrid that has something for everyone.”
Whoever controls our memories controls the future.
Janelle Monáe and an incredible array of talented collaborators have crafted a collection of tales comprising the bold vision and powerful themes that have made Monáe such a compelling and celebrated storyteller. Dirty Computer introduced a world in which thoughts—as a means of self-conception—could be controlled or erased by a select few. And whether you were human, AI, or other, your life and sentience were dictated by those who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide your fate.
That was until Jane 57821 decided to remember and break free.
“Blistering, hopeful, and richly written… All readers will finish the book craving more of these extremely queer, bold stories that battle gatekeeping and erasure, digging into both the worst potential of a surveillance state and the gritty glimmer of the rebellion that can defeat it.”
—Booklist, starred review
In the near future, a young woman finds her mother’s body starfished on the kitchen floor in Queens and sets on a journey through language, archives, artificial intelligence, and TV for a way back into herself. She begins to translate an old manuscript about a group of female medical students―living through a drought and at the edge of the war―as they create a new way of existence to help the people around them. In the process, the translator’s life and the manuscript begin to become entangled.
Along the way, the arrival of a childhood friend, a stranger, and an unusual AI project will force her to question her own moral compass and sense of goodness. How involved are we in the suffering of others? What does real compassion look like? How do you make a better world?
“Kumarasamy’s quirky language and wit are dazzling … [Her] humor is the way I dig it―deep―extending an opportunity for the reader to take a beat before absorbing the novel’s more sobering themes.”
―The New York Times Book Review
In the 2050s, Earth has begun to empty. Those with the means and the privilege have departed the great cities of the United States for the more comfortable confines of space colonies. Those left behind salvage what they can from the collapsing infrastructure. As they eke out an existence, their neighborhoods are being cannibalized. Brick by brick, their houses are sent to the colonies; what was once a home is now a quaint reminder for the colonists of the world that they wrecked.
“In this ambitious novel, dense with perspectives and social commentary, Onyebuchi dreams up disparate lives in a crumbling future America―with gentrifiers returning to Earth from space colonies and laborers trying to make a precarious living―while leaving room for moments of beauty and humor.”
―The New York Times, Editors’ Choice
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eye on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
“Jessamine Chan’s infuriatingly timely debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, takes this widely accepted armchair quarterbacking of motherhood and ratchets it up to the level of a surveillance state—one that may read more like a preview than a dystopia, depending on your faith in the future of Roe v. Wade… chilling… clever.”
-The New York Times Review
In 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika Crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.
Once unleashed, the Arctic plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy:
In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son.
A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech.
A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.
“Nagamatsu’s novel isn’t about hope, but about how things change in the space between possible and impossible. Of course the one thing that never changes, even or especially in tragic times, is human nature.”
-Los Angeles Times
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later, a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for loose change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
“Mandel delivers… with an impish blend of wit and dread… Absent your own time portal to the 1990s, it’s a chance to… wrestle with the mind-blowing possibility that what is may be entirely different from what we see.”
—The Washington Post
The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is forty, with four kids, restless, and desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—which allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share your memories in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes.
“May be the smartest novel you read all year… Fiction at its best… gets at our secret selves in ways the internet can’t… Egan’s audacity is welcome.”
When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.
What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm, human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda, and they’re in trouble.
It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who have found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
“Equally lighthearted and grounded―and sure to delight.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.
Klara and the Sun explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
“As with Ishiguro’s other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara’s quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity… This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
6 thoughts on “The Best Science Fiction Books of 2022”
Most are editors picks from Amazon. Only two independent publishers. Missing a plethora of outstanding independently published books. Not the best sci-fi of 2022 list really.
What books would be on your 2022 list?
So what were your favorites?
Great add for this list.
Wonderful book about AI and an intelligent octopus
The mountain in the sea
One of my favorite novels of the past 10? years has been Delta-V by Daniel Suarez. It was about a small team sent by a billionaire to mine an asteroid. I think all of the technology in it either exists or is feasible. At long last, a cast of flawed but realistic (and likeable) characters, with hard science propelling them to their destinies.
Got any other hard science fiction stories you can recommend? It’s still possible to write this stuff, y’know.
I do have some hard science fiction stories to recommend.