Science fiction is also known as sci-fi or speculative science fiction. We think of aliens, spaceships, and time travel when we hear it. Science fiction encourages curiosity in science, regardless of age, stimulates the imagination, and opens up possibilities that we don’t even consider. It is easy to forget that books can and do transform the reader. Continue reading to learn more about the best new sci-fi books.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Science Fiction Books and Fantasy Books Of The Year
- 1.1 Truth Of The Divine By Lindsay Ellis (Oct 12)
- 1.2 The Human by Neal Asher
- 1.3 A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
- 1.4 Termination Shock By Neal Stephenson (Nov 16)
- 1.5 A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
- 1.6 Noor by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW; Nov. 9)
- 1.7 The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart (Orbit; Nov 9)
- 1.8 Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Tor Books; Sept 28)
- 1.9 Hunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline (Amulet Books; Oct 19)
- 1.10 The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert (Angry Robot; Oct.12)
- 1.11 Recursion By Blake Crouch
- 1.12 To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
- 1.13 The Last Watch, by J. S. Dewes
- 1.14 The City In The Middle Of The Night By Charlie Jane Anders
- 1.15 Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
- 1.16 The Shadow of the Gods, by John Gwynne
- 1.17 A Memory Called Empire By Arkady Martine
- 1.18 The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri
- 1.19 Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
- 1.20 The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Sept 28)
- 1.21 A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom; Oct 5)
- 1.22 Zone One by Colson Whitehead
- 1.23 Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
- 1.24 The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
- 1.25 Light Years from Home by Mike Chen (Mira; Jan. 25)
- 1.26 Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Tin House; Feb. 1)
- 1.27 Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
- 1.28 Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky
- 1.29 Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (Harper Voyager; Jan. 11)
- 1.30 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
- 1.31 Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons
- 1.32 Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom; Jan. 25)
- 1.33 The Witch’s Heart, by Genevieve Gornichec
- 1.34 Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho
- 1.35 How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (William Morrow; Jan. 18)
- 1.36 A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
- 2 Other Best Science Fiction Novels To Consider
- 3 Conclusion
Best Science Fiction Books and Fantasy Books Of The Year
Fall is fast approaching, and there are many new books in stores. It’s a great time to escape into a new world or embark on an adventure.
Truth Of The Divine By Lindsay Ellis (Oct 12)
Lindsay Ellis is most well known for her YouTube videos, but her first novel, Axiom’s End, was published last year. The book reveals that the US has been engaging with an alien civilization. A young woman named Cora Sabino deals with the fact that her father was the whistleblower who revealed this bit of information to the world.
The world struggles to accept the news in this sequel. However, details about precisely what we know about aliens are not fully disclosed. Cora acts as an intermediary between aliens and the US government and has formed a relationship with Ampersand. A journalist discovers new information about the aliens’ efforts, and it causes chaos in their plans.
The Human by Neal Asher
Best sci-fi books of 2020
The Human is the epic conclusion to the Rise of the Jain Trilogy. It opens with the fate of a whole galaxy in the balance. The fate of an entire galaxy is at stake as a Jain warship rises from a five million year old prison. To save humanity, Orlandine must again fight the seemingly invincible Jain and their deadly, ancient technology.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Arkady Martine’s first sci-fi novel is an immersive political space opera that will appeal to Ann Leckie or Iain M. Banks fans. A Memory Called Empire introduces a technology that allows a few to carry the memories of their predecessors and use their wisdom and memories. This is a fascinating concept for the reader. Fans will eagerly await the next novel by this science fiction author. This is the first book in the Texicalaan trilogy.
Termination Shock By Neal Stephenson (Nov 16)
Neal Stephenson is a well known name in science fiction. His books include Snow Crash, Reamde, and Seveneves. Now, his latest book focuses on climate change. T. R. Schmidt, a billionaire restaurant tycoon, believes he has the answer to the world’s rising temperature.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
While the first installment in the Teixcalaan, the spectacular sequel to Arkady Marte’s Hugo Award-winning debut sci-fi book, shows the Teixcalaanli Empire confronting an alien threat that could lead to its destruction. This is the second book of the Texicalaan action/adventure space opera series.
Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus, the only thing standing between the empire’s collapse, sends an envoy in desperate need to negotiate with the alien invaders. . . Arkady Martine’s Teixcalaan duo logy is a must read sci-fi and fantasy book for fans of epic opera.
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW; Nov. 9)
In this short but powerful Africanfuturist novel, Nnedi Okorafor examines the dangers of capitalism and its effect on technology and population control. AO, which stands for Artificial Organism, was born with a disability. Years later, a car accident took even more of her mobility. She prefers to modify herself using biotech modifications. The more modifications she makes, she’s more robust and alert.
Many people dislike those who use biotech modification. After AO is attacked because she is half human, she flees to the desert where she finds DNA, another escapee. DNA and his cows also survived a heinous attack. This one was politically motivated. The two must flee to a hidden place in the Red Eye to escape the violence.
The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart (Orbit; Nov 9)
Lin struggles to secure her position as emperor in the second installment of the epic fantasy series The Drowning Empire. It begins with The Bone Shard Daughter. Even though she has shut down bone shard ceremonies and returned bone shards to each island, it is not enough to win over the island’s governors. Her father’s constructions now have no orders and flock to Nifong, who forms an army, attacking the islands.
Jovis is unsure about his loyalty to Lin as the captain of the Imperial Guard, as well as his oath. Phalue (the governor) and Ranami (the loyalties to Shardless Few) bid Lin abdicate their thrones.
The second novel adds to the political complexity of the first by showing Lin and Jovis acquiring Alanga powers and islands sinking further. It also sets up a fantasy universe that is easy to lose yourself in.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Tor Books; Sept 28)
The three main characters in this delightful mixture of science fiction and fantasy are set amid the classical violin scene.
Shizuka Satomi (the Queen of Hell in the violin world) dealt with the devil to deliver seven souls. She’ll be able again to perform her music after she delivers seven souls. She has already delivered six souls, and she is currently trying to find her seventh. Katrina Nguyen’s violin is her most treasured possession. She flees her abusive family because they won’t accept Katrina as a transwoman.
There is no place she can escape to. Lan Tran, an alien starship Captain, fled an intergalactic conflict with her family across space. She landed in a donut store, which she and her family bought and now own. These three characters form their own family when they meet. But with the devil at their heels, their tight knit community is in danger.
Hunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline (Amulet Books; Oct 19)
The sequel to Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves is not slowing down. This dystopian future is characterized by natural disasters and plagues that have decimated the population. Many of those left have stopped dreaming except for Indigenous North Americans. The dreamless, haunted and mad, set up or reopened residential schools to steal dreams and suck the marrow of Indigenous peoples.
French, aged seventeen years old, is part of an Indigenous group that recently saved one of its members from a residential college. French is taken prisoner at a residential school on the night of their celebrations. While he struggles to stay alive and sane, His family finds him and plans to rescue him.
Hunting the Stars, an alarming and emotional book, is a must read for anyone who has enjoyed the first book or those looking for more Indigenous voices within SFF. However, The Marrow Thieves is recommended first.
The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert (Angry Robot; Oct.12)
These short stories, which are translated from Korean, feature Cabinet 13 characters. They are hilarious and imaginative. Cabinet 13 lists people known as symptoms (humans who represent a leap in the evolutionary chain) and may be considered a new species. Professor Kwon is the office assistant responsible for studying and tracking this new species.
Mr. Kong is also an office assistant. These symptoms can be both exciting and frustrating for Mr. Kong. The first half is a collection of anecdotes. But the second half slowly reveals a bigger plot. This is the second novel by award winning author Un-Su Kim to be translated into English.
Recursion By Blake Crouch
Recursion is an action packed look at alternate universes. Blake Crouch’s previous book Dark Matter was a fun and action-packed read. Although the science is somewhat speculative, it’s an enjoyable adventure.
The sci-fi thriller is high concept and asks the question, “What if someone could rewrite my entire life?” Detective Barry Sutton is called in to assist a woman who threatened to jump from a structure. He doesn’t know the chain of events that will follow. Unable to stop the woman from taking her own life, Barry discovers that the woman is not the only one making similar claims.
People are awakening to new lives all across the country. This is what the media has called ‘False Memories Syndrome.’ What if there is more to the problem than a simple disease?
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
Christopher Paolini’s epic science fiction novel To Sleep in A Sea of Stars is the New York Times bestseller.
The story follows Kira Navarez, a xenobiologist, who discovers an alien relic and is thrust into the horrors and nightmares that are first contact. She is thrust into epic space battles for humanity’s fate, which take her to the far reaches of the galaxy. This transforms not only her but also the course of history.
The Last Watch, by J. S. Dewes
This space adventure is a page turner that follows the crew on the Argus. It’s a ship made up of misfit soldiers who watch out for alien threats at the edge of the universe. When the universe collapses, Adequin Rake, the commanding officer of the Argus, must find a way to save her crew and humanity from the fast approaching edge of existence. With limited resources and no help from the empire to which she has dedicated her life, Adequin Rake is left with little to no choice but to rescue her crew.
In recent years, one of the most fantastic sci-fi books series debuts is made by the novel’s richly drawn cast of unlikely heroes, meticulously plotted, relentless action, and innovative yet accessible scientific speculation. This space epic is a must see for fans of the genre, especially those already grieving the loss of The Expanse series this year.
The City In The Middle Of The Night By Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders’ sophomore novel is set on a distant planet. Half of it is frozen, and half of that burns under the sun’s glare. Human settlers live in two cities in the (sort of) temperate zone. However, a discovery about creatures that once lived there changes everything.
Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky’s sci-fi novel Children of Time won an Arthur C. Clarke Award. Children of Ruin shows how modern humanity must deal with the effects of Earth’s ancient empire. Unplanned and unsettling side effects result in terraforming the Nod world. This part of space is finally discovered by an exploration mission eons later. They hope to find their old Earth cousins, but they soon discover that there is more.
The Shadow of the Gods, by John Gwynne
The Shadow of the Gods takes place in a Norse inspired universe where the gods once ruled, but now their human descendants have been hunted down. This is the start of Gwynne’s new series. As the story shifts between three main characters, Orka, a former warrior who must resign to save her son, Varg, an escaped slave, and Elvar, who seeks to become a warrior in the Battle-Grim Warband, the expansive world is immediately established.
A Memory Called Empire By Arkady Martine
Mahit Dzmare, the new ambassador to the interstellar Teixcalaanli Empire, is Mahit. Her job quickly goes south when she learns that the previous ambassador is dead. She must solve the mystery of his death and stop her station from being destroyed by the powerful political forces. Although technically it is the first in a series of missions, it should stand on its own.
The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri
Malini, who refused to be purified by death by fire as ordered by her brother the emperor, is held captive in an ancient temple till she accepts her fate on the pyre.
Priya is the one who has to look after Malini during her captivity. She is a tenderhearted woman and will gladly do any job if it does not threaten her anonymity. Unintentionally, Priya reveals her long repressed forbidden powers to Malini. This sets off a series of events that will undoubtedly bind their fates and could even reshape the empire.
Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Project Hail Mary is the winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for best science fiction book in 2021, as well as Amazon’s choice for best science fiction/fantasy novel in 2021. The plot follows Ryland Grace, who wakes up on a spacecraft millions of kilometers from Earth with no memory.
Ryland finds he is the sole survivor of a last ditch expedition to rescue mankind from destruction as his memories begin to return.
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Sept 28)
Naomi Novik, an author, introduced Scholomance to readers last year. It is a dangerous magical academy where only the most gifted can escape alive. The course load is intense, and monsters are all around the halls. Galadriel Higgins, also known as El, is one of these students struggling to make it through graduation. She has a secret: she was prophesied to one day end the world.
To survive in the first book, she had to form tenuous alliances to help her classmates. This sci-fi book presents her with a more challenging curriculum. She will have to figure out how to survive alongside her new friends and not succumb to her destiny.
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom; Oct 5)
This humorous feminist novella tells the story of Sleeping Beauty. Zinnia Gray, a modern Sleeping Beauty, has a rare and fatal disease. It is rare for anyone with it lives beyond 21. Charm, Zinnia’s friend, throws her a Sleeping Beauty surprise birthday party. But when Zinnia touches a spinning wheel, she is thrust into another dimension.
Zinnia cannot return to her world, so she decides that this Sleeping Beauty will help her overcome the curse. Zinnia is attracted to Sleeping Beauty as they work together. With Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations, this quick read is a must read for all fairy tale fans.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Colson whitehead was inspired by his teenage fascination with Stephen King and Issac Amirmov to write this apocalyptic science fiction novel. A plague has ravaged the planet, and its population is split into the living and dead. Mark Spitz works on a task force to rid the planet of infested people from Zone One, but it quickly worsens.
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
Remote Control is a novel by Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Fatima is transformed into the Angel of Death’s adopted daughter by an extraterrestrial artifact, and she is no longer known as Fatima but as Sankofa.
Sankofa’s touch is lethal, and a single look may bring a whole village down, but is there a deeper purpose for her in her pursuit of the thing that fell from the sky and altered her life forever?
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
This epic feminist fantasy follows Deka, a 16 year old whose life is turned upside down when her blood is discovered to contain cursed gold on the day of her village’s purification rite. Deka is tormented by the village elders since she is now considered nothing more than a monster until she is saved by a mysterious woman who is forming an army of girls just like her.
Deka’s new blood sisters, known as alaki, share her extraordinary speed and strength and the gift of near immortality talents they’ll need to master if they’re going to take on the empire’s worst danger, the enormous Deathshrieks.
The Gilded Ones is a striking look at what it means to be a woman in a strongly patriarchal culture, and Forna delves deeply into the effect of institutional and psychological trauma on the alaki. It’s a fantastic start to what will undoubtedly be one of the decade’s most talked about young adult series.
Light Years from Home by Mike Chen (Mira; Jan. 25)
This literary science fiction focuses on family turmoil in the aftermath of alien abduction and is rich in character development. Jakob was abducted by aliens fifteen years ago to join their war fleet, and his family was devastated by his departure. His father got preoccupied with locating him, which ultimately led to his death. Evie, his younger sister, took on her father’s quest for the truth and became a key member of a UFO hunters group.
Jakob’s mother is now suffering from dementia, and his twin sister, Kass, looks after her and refuses to accept that Jakob was taken by aliens. When he returns 15 years later, she feels her carefree, lazy brother is probably traveling through Europe high on drugs, which is exactly what he tells his family.
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Tin House; Feb. 1)
The horrific lurking behind the mundane is depicted in this collection of 12 imaginative and captivating short tales. A young girl starts to sprout wings on her legs in Liddy, First to Fly, exhibiting them exclusively to a group of her elementary school pals.
A revolutionary printing technology that can recreate people causes a husband and wife to try killing each other in Twenty Hours. After fleeing an abusive partner in June Bugs, a lady moves into a rental, only to be invaded by a June bug infestation. This book will appeal to fans of Carmen Maria Machado since it is vivid and strange.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel’s book Sea of Tranquility explores the concept of parallel universes and possibilities and the concept of time itself. It’s really engaging because it’s insightful and emotional about art, love, and what we need to do to live, it is incredibly compelling.
Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Eyes of the Void is the second installment of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture space opera trilogy, and it’s thoughtful, innovative, and high octane. After eighty years of precarious peace, the extraterrestrial adversary has returned, waging a brutal one sided conflict and destroying entire planets.
There is no one who is secure, and the Human Colonies are in disarray. As the danger becomes more imminent, Idris has a chance to save mankind. However, in order to accomplish so, he must confront his demons in unspace. And what he discovers there is going to alter everything…
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (Harper Voyager; Jan. 11)
The cover of this first fiction based on the Chinese tale of Chang’e, the moon goddess, is as lovely as the book itself. Chang’e takes her husband’s elixir of immortality, granted to him by the celestials for shooting down the sunbirds that set fire to the earth when the physicians prophesy that neither she nor the baby would live.
However, saving her and her daughter’s lives comes at a price: the celestials banishe her to the moon for stealing her husband’s elixir, guaranteeing that she will never be able to depart and never see her husband again. She keeps Xingyin, her daughter, hidden from the celestials.
Xingyin grows up hiding her magic, so the celestials won’t notice her, but when the celestials detect something isn’t quite right on the moon, she’s forced to escape. She begins her career as a maid but soon gains a position as a companion to the Celestial Crown Prince, and she becomes famous for her archery abilities and fearlessness.
Her only ambition in life is to release her mother and see her once again. Magic, action, love turmoil, multifaceted characters, mythological animals, moral challenges, and more are all there in this first installment of a fantasy duology.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
This fascinating science fiction book, nominated for the 2021 Booker Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Medal, is about Klara, an Artificial Friend. She waits in a shop to be selected by a human and live out her whole purpose. Klara’s coming of age novel in a fast changing human world is hopeful and astutely observant, exploring concerns about people, life, and society.
Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons
In the far future, an empire of city states grapples with dangers from inside and beyond in this first installment of a new Afrofuturist space opera trilogy. The tale begins with the naming of Amachi Adisa, the adopted daughter of one of the Muungano empire’s seven founding families. Despite their differences and enormous distances, the seven founding families constitute a close knit community.
Following her ceremony, the little Wachiru is named the family’s leader, a stunning step for someone so young. When a violent incident happens, however, Amachi, Wachiru, and officer Maulana Buhari must put their empire’s idealistic, nonviolent beliefs to the test to rescue it.
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom; Jan. 25)
This complicated dystopia is set 30 years when climate change has ravaged the planet. The wealthy have gone to space colonies, leaving others without the resources to flee to try to maintain some semblance of normality amid a deteriorating infrastructure and environment.
Jonathan and David are white guys who decide to return to Earth after leaving their space colonies. As they rebuild in New Haven, Connecticut, their white privilege stands in stark contrast to the city’s black population.
While Jonathan and David fantasize about returning to Earth, workers Linc, Bishop, and Sydney who recover structures for use in space colonies are just attempting to survive the radiation poisoning, street violence, gentrification, and overall inhumanity with which they are forced to live. This is a complicated book with intertwined timeframes and characters that, like the finest dystopias, examines contemporary political and societal issues.
The Witch’s Heart, by Genevieve Gornichec
In this first book, the mother of monsters is given a dramatic reworking. The witch Angrboda intended to enjoy a life of peaceful alone in the woods after being burnt at the stake by Odin for refusing to disclose her Ragnarok prophesies. When the wily deity Loki comes to retrieve Angrboda’s beating heart, the two embark on an unusual but profoundly felt relationship.
Their marriage gives birth to three odd offspring, each of whom has a specific role to perform in the future and whom their mother will go to great lengths to protect. Gornichec argues in The Witch’s Heart that Angrboda’s struggles with motherhood and recovering her own power are just as intense as the gods’ exploits that generally dominate Norse mythology.
Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho
Gods and ghosts. Gangsters. It’s all there in Black Water Sister. Jessamyn Teoh is an aimless, broke Harvard student who was already dreading returning to Malaysia with her parents, especially since her secret partner remained in the United States. Things take a turn for the worst when Jess discovers she’s being plagued by the spirit of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma, upon her arrival.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (William Morrow; Jan. 18)
This grim literary dystopia, written as a collection of interrelated short tales in the middle of a pandemic, makes for extremely bleak reading. Climate change is expected to trigger major permafrost melting in the near future, unleashing an ancient virus that spreads swiftly. Theme parks are created to help youngsters die while having fun, while high end funeral homes cater to the rich.
Scientists are also urgently attempting to avoid death by growing human organs in pigs and developing spacecraft to locate a better location to live. Each character is intricately depicted as they battle with a destiny that affords them little room to hope or dream. The audiobook, which has the whole ensemble, is fantastic. It has the sense of a collection of personal accounts of what the future could hold.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
The robots developed self-awareness centuries ago, put down their tools, and went out into the forest, never to be seen again. In this charming fable about purpose and productivity, a Tea Monk named Sibling Dex meets a robot named Mosscap, who must figure out what Dex wants before they can part ways.
Other Best Science Fiction Novels To Consider
- Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter (Harper Voyager; Sept 28)
- Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (Wednesday Books; Oct 19)
- The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales by Yoon Ha Lee (Andrews McMeel Publishing; Oct 5)
- The Brides of Maracoor by Gregory Maguire (William Morrow; Oct 12)
- Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Books for Young Readers; Jan. 18)
- Mickey7 by Edward Ashton (St. Martin’s Press; Feb. 15)
- A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee (Clarion Books; March 1)
- A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
- Rabbits by Terry Miles
- Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Fantasy books use places, people, and countries that exist, then create stories from this understanding. Science fiction is a different kind of fiction. It looks at our futures and extrapolates technologies to create distinct worlds for the characters and stories. Sci-fi novels often focus on radical change and imaginative possibilities. It also extrapolates the effects of these changes on society. I hope you find the above article helpful in expanding your knowledge. Thank you for reading.
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