I don’t know about you but when it comes to books I rarely discriminate. Whether they are published last year or a hundred years ago or if they are 700 or 70 pages long, I just don’t care, but I have to admit I sometimes avoid certain genres. No use in denying it. We all do it. And that’s okay. Sometimes we need a little help with venturing into an unknown genre and I am here to help you with one!
Science fiction is a scary one. The books are huge, the universes complex, and the science brutal. For some, space really is the final frontier, and when I try recommending something involving distant planets I get the response “I don’t really like SF”. Then I give them the look I give to people who say they don’t like puppies. What do you mean you don’t like puppies… I mean SF? I try to explain there are some books that just use the setting to talk about so much more. Never trust a synopsis, people. They are often too general or too “spoilery”. So I’m going to recommend five SF books you’ll love even if you’re not a fan of the genre, and tell you what they’re really about. Give them a go and then come back and tell me how much you loved them.
1. Planetfall by Emma Newman
The gist: Humanity has finally found an inhabitable planet. A group of people has established a colony and they’ve been building it for more than two decades. One day, a stranger wanders into the colony and his arrival will start a chain of events that will slowly uncover the truth of what happened during Planetfall.
What it’s really about: Anxiety and mental disorders. “What!?” I hear you cry. Well, my synopsis reading friend, the main character is a woman named Ren who was one of the original crew that first visited the planet. She guards that aforementioned horrible secret and suffers from a severe case of anxiety. Seen through her eyes, the world is a worrisome and horrifying place. Newman does such a good job of describing anxiety that I felt a little uncomfortable at times. It’s relatable in every way and so much more than just a novel about colonizing another planet. It’s an account of coping with something that plagues our society and that people have gotten very good at hiding.
2. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The gist: This is the story of the crew of the Wayfarer, a ship that punches holes in space-time to create inter-galactic roads. Their next voyage is going to take a year, longer than any before. The novel starts with a new crewmember, Rosemary, a girl from Mars that joins this multispecies crew. The story pretty much takes up from there.
What it’s really about: love, family, tolerance, and diversity. There are no big space battles in this book. There are no chief villains. There is no great mystery to be solved. It’s about a multi-species crew and their relationships. We learn about their species and their lives and it’s so fun and interesting, and this really is the puppy of all SF novels.
You will fall in love with it whether you like it or not. It explores gender and love and what the word family is actually all about. It’s empathic and wonderful. If you’re looking for a light-hearted, feel good book, go with this one. You will not regret it.
3. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The gist: In 2575 a seemingly unprovoked megacorporation attacks a colonized planet. Huge military vessels are in hot pursuit of the few evacuation ships and on those ships are Kady and Ezra, a couple of teenagers who had just broken up. We get the account of the entire event through e-mails, messages, reports and schematics. I don’t want to give too much away, so that’s all I’m going to say plot-wise, and it’s never a good idea to judge a book by looks only, but you just have to look at it. Isn’t it beautiful?
What it’s really about: It’s just plain fun. If you like fast paced, YA books, look no further. It’s not science heavy and it reads like a movie script. Don’t let the size frighten you; because it’s written in this strange IM format (mostly) it will take you 1-2 sittings to finish it and you’ll be breathless by the end.
4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The gist: Billy Pilgrim is a World War II survivor. After witnessing the horrors of war, mainly the destruction of Dresden, Billy describes the brutality and carnage of war as well as being abducted by aliens and experiencing temporal shifts.
What it’s really about: PTSD and a well-known anti-war book. This book is an example of an SF setting used to speak about a more serious issue. I know maybe this is not an obvious choice (most people know it is allegorical and satirical), but sometimes people will avoid a novel simply because it’s classified as SF. Slaughterhouse-five is raw, has a deceptively simple style which forces you to slice through it like knife through butter and it leaves you staring at the wall, reliving the horrors described in a seemingly cold, straightforward way. So it goes… is one of the most tattooable literary quotes. Pick it up and find out why.
The gist: Ilium starts with Achilles’ rage just like the masterpiece that inspired it: Homer’s Iliad. The Trojan War is raging and gods are fighting alongside their favourite heroes. In the meantime, a small group of people resides on the future Earth, protected by machines and Jupiter’s moons are inhabited by robots. Yeah, there is a lot going on.
What it’s about: Literature. It would be impossible to make a coherent summary. I could write about the plot for days and still not spoil anything. But at its heart, Ilium is an homage to Shakespeare and Homer. After hundreds of years, they are still an inspiration. This is a brilliant take on the Tempest and Iliad.
There you go. Five books you’ll love even if you are not a fan of Science fiction. Hope you like the list. Which Science fiction books would you recommend?