Science Fiction & Fantasy
"It is 2017 and you may well be turning to dystopian fiction in order to better comprehend the present political climate. If so, add Parable of the Sower to your list. The classics of the genre - 1984, Fahrenheit 451, depict life under an authoritarian regime; Parable, two decades old but set roughly two presidential terms from the present, feels eerily predictive of how our communities might respond if society collapses altogether."
One of the most unique, funnest novels I read this past year. The world Marlon James builds in this book is unlike anything you've ever read before, and he populates it with the most wonderfully idiosyncratic characters in a gender-bending, myth-making, madcap adventure story set in a fantastical African kingdom of yesteryear. Funny, fascinating, sexy (yes, he writes great sex scenes!), and riveting, I guarantee you'll have a great time with this one-of-a-kind book. And best of all, it's only the first in a series, and there should be at least two more to come!
— Jacob R
"This book deserves every good thing that can be said about it. I have little to add but hope by putting it here, you'll remember that, oh yeah, you totally have wanted to read/re-read Dune. If you need a push, remember there are mile-long, razor-toothed sandworms and desert warriors badass enough to ride them."
I was tired of reading the same sci-fi novel over and over again. But through Binti, Nnendi Okorafor turns many classic tropes on their head. What does it mean to be an alien when you are already an outsider on your own planet and winin your own culture? Binti is the irst Himba girl to attend Oomza University, a school far from earth and her family. What follows are life-changing experiences which ask questions of belonging, culture, loyalty, and how new perspectives can change the world.
A scientist from an anarchist moon journeys to the capitalist planet his society revolted against in order to share and explore a major breakthrough. Challenging and engaging in terms of ideas and character, The Dispossessed showcases Le Guin's brilliant intellect and style.
— Jacob S.
Each of these unsettling stories builds quietly to a startling finish; whether darkly humorous or irremediably bleak. Somewhere between science fiction and comedic horror, the ways in which Bakić's hapless characters are placed in contradiction to unknowable surroundings is politically rife. Like a feminist version of Roald Dahl's macabre fiction, with a Tarkovskyan twist.
The Hugo award-winning Broken Earth series starts with the thrilling and tragic story of Syenite and Alabaster. In a land troubled by constant earthquakes they are gifted and feared for their ability to manipulate the earth's energy. At odds with the limitations of their world, they try to escape it, with apocalyptic consequences.
— Jacob S.
In the midst of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a young scientist sends a message into the cosmos that brings a desperate, far more advanced civilization hurtling toward the Earth, and humanity begins planning for a Doomsday Battle that won't happen for four hundred years. There are a million reasons to love Liu's storytelling in this first book of his Three-Body trilogy, but his ability to keep the pace and tension humming while also keeping the aliens almost entirely off-stage utterly blew my mind.
Riots break out in Costa Rica and spill over into the Hilton, where astronaut Ijon Tichy is attending the Eighth World Futurological Congress. To quell the uprising, the government cropdusts the demonstrators with potent psychotropic 'benignimizers,' sending rioters, police, and conference attendees alike into fits of rapture. Reality and hallucination become indistinguishable in this hilarious and plausible satire that follows Tichy from the sewers below the convention center into the year 2039, where 'psychem' is ubiquitous and where the conditions on earth may not be at all what they appear.
Set in an alternate 1985 England where literature is of the utmost importance, time travel is almost passé, people keep dodos as pets, and cheese is heavily taxed, this is the story of Thursday Next, a literary detective tasked with thwarting the kidnapping of Jane Eyre out the pages of her manuscript. A hilarious and weird book for a very specific type of reader who will be delighted to learn there are six more books in the series.
— Katie Fee
A classic PKD tale of drugs, technology, and paranoia, this one revolving around a double agent addicted to the drug he's dealing and quickly losing his sense of identity. But the plot is secondary to the examination of the lives that surround him, the addicts and dealers whose lives are crushed in the endless drug war. A heavily autobiographical novel, A Scanner Darkly is PKD's most humane work.
— Jacob S.
RAT Korga, a former slave and lone survivor of a world that was mysteriously destroyed, is sent to live on a new planet with a pre-chosen sexual partner. That's about as simple an explanation I can offer. Centered around an intense and unexpected partnership, it conjures the confused feeling of deep love and vulnerability in a truly alien landscape. A unique and unforgettable book.
— Jacob S
If James M. Cain or Jim Thompson had set one of their brutal tales of exploitation and paranoia a couple hundred years later, it might have looked like this. With its 24th-century ruling elite communicating through telepathic calligrammes and emojis, The Demolished Man is something like Atlas Shrugged as rewritten by Mallarme and 4chan. With character names like @kins and ¼maine, Bester puts his background in writing snappy ad copy to good use. Also features one of the most relatable — and therefore frightening — portrayals of a psychotic break I've ever read.
A surreal satire of consumer culture, corporate intrigue, and substance abuse. Forced to abandon an overheated earth, Martian colonists living in sparse conditions take drugs and hallucinate lives of luxury while playing with toys. When Palmer Eldritch arrives with a strong alien hallucinogen that could put the drug and toy manufacturers out of business, his rivals race to stop him. Includes an extended sequence midway through that's the closest reading has ever come to making me feel like I was actually on drugs.
— Jacob S.
Gibson's paranoid mystery is suffused with post-911 dread and is so early aughts it hurts. The protagonist, a "cool hunter" who travels between New York, London, and Tokyo surveying street fashion and consulting with clothing companies, is involved in a chatroom community trying to track down the anonymous authors of an enigmatic web-based video art project. When big money gets involved, she encounters Italian thugs, Russian oligarchs, British antiquarians, and the IRL identities of her message board confederates are gradually revealed. iMac G4's, Ethernet connections, Netscape Navigator, and descriptions of characters as looking like extras from The Matrix leave an umistakable timestamp. So put on your clip-on teashades, lean back in your leather wing chair, and go back to 2002 where you belong.
I hope that your overwhelmingly positive leanings towards the idea of time travel (how could you have anything but?) and the promise that this is its greatest sans-Doc Brown story help you overlook this book jacket, which has the distinction of being the worst ever created by mankind.
Like Starship Troopers (the movie) with subtler satire, or Space Cowboys (the movie) with more aliens. Geriatrics thrown into battle shouldn't be as funny and endearing as they are in Scalzi's imagination, in a future where at age 75 you can enlist in the Colonial Defense Forces, receive a new superathletic body, and kill aliens in foreign star systems. One of life's unfair asymmetries is that the young can't imagine what it's like to be old, while the old remember what it was like to be young. Scalzi blurs that line and makes aging seem like a blast.
Not truly sci-fi, indeed the oft bandied "speculative fiction", but honestly, I don't know what to make of Morrow's quiet work. Of the psychological interiority of beings? As imagined? (Created?) I was deeply drawn inside Mem's attempt at a reimagined humanity.
Released in 1966, this classic STILL feels ahead of its time. It's poetic and revels in language. It's queer and it's weird and you really should have read this by now.