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Fans of science fiction find themselves in the genre for a number of reasons. It could be a love of all the accoutrements that mark the genre: new species, alien warfare, spaceships and gripping anti-heroes. But, it also serves as a crystal ball — showing humanity through imagined reactions to new technology, races or otherworldly locales, often in a way that’s stirring and a little bit scary — in a good way!

The Washington Post will be publishing an ever-rotating list of some of the best science fiction we’ve read, populated by staff and reader suggestions and moderated by us here at Book World. Leave your most recently read science fiction books in the comments.

Title: The Saga of Seven Suns

Author: Kevin J. Anderson

What’s it about? “The Saga of Seven Suns” is a seven-book space opera, following humanity in the near future after it has colonized other planets across the galaxy with the help of a more technologically advanced species called the Ildrians. After humans accidentally anger a hidden, ancient race of aliens, the universe is thrown into war. The series kicks off with “Hidden Empire.”

Recommended by: @KTHunter_Author on Tumblr.


Title: The Queen of Blood

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

What’s it about? “The Queen of Blood” takes place in a magical world where people coexist with the spirits who help maintain and nurture nature – and often want to destroy humans. The only person who can restore balance is the Queen, who detects she’s losing her powers. Meanwhile, an academy grooms young women to take the Queen’s place, and among them is Daleina, who discovers a conspiracy to assassinate other heirs to the throne. Author Nancy Hightower commended the world-building in the book and called it “an enthralling tale filled with an intriguing ensemble of characters.”

Recommended by: Hightower, who reviews the best science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.


Title: The Three-Body Problem

Author: Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

What’s it about? In this award-winning novel, Liu reimagines history after the Cultural Revolution, following academic Ye Wenjie, who is sent to work in a top-secret military base after her father is murdered by Red Guards. Forty years later, a nanomaterials researcher is asked to infiltrate a group of elite scientists to spy after a number of the world’s greatest scientists commit suicide, including Ye’s daughter. To get in the group, Wang must play an online virtual reality game in which players attempt to prevent an apocalypse from wiping out a civilization. Wang finds out about a massive conspiracy harkening all the way back to the Cultural Revolution.

Originally published in China in 2008, the English translation won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel.

Recommended by: Washington Post staff


Title: Good Morning, Midnight

Author: Lily Brooks-Dalton

What’s it about? “Good Morning, Midnight” is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows Augustine, a 78-year-old scientist at the top of the Arctic archipelago, and Sullivan, a mission specialist on a deep space flight to Jupiter. Both have left their families out of curiosity about the natural world and have devoted their lives to these desolate places. When all communication in the world goes dead, both scientists must re-evaluate what is important to them as they journey to reconnect with whatever society is left.

Recommended by: Nancy Hightower, who reviews the best scifi and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.


Title: Children of Men

Author: P.D. James

What’s it about? In this book, later made into a movie, the human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born has reached adulthood. England, ruled by the Warden, has become a society where the ill are encouraged to commit suicide, immigrants practically enslaved and criminals exiled. An Oxford professor and cousin of the Warden, Theo Faron, is apathetic about the future. But then he meets a woman, leader of a group of revolutionaries, who may hold the key to the survival of the human race, and wants his help getting an audience with The Warden.

It’s “an interesting look at how fragile society is and what children would bring.”

Recommended by: @drinking-tea-at-midnight on Tumblr


Title: The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

Author: Neal Stephenson

What’s it about? Stephenson’s novel takes place in a future world powered by nanotechnology, where society is organized into phyles, or tribes, of people of varying cultures and social statuses. The story follows a young girl from the lowest class in society named Nell, who by accident is the recipient of an illegal copy of an interactive book called the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer intended for a wealthy lord’s daughter. “The Diamond Age” explores the effect of the book on Nell, and two other girls who received a copy and as a result, its effect on the world around them.

Recommended by: @dreamawhile on Tumblr


Title: Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents

Author: Octavia Butler

What’s it about? A two-book series about a dystopian United States where society has reverted to near anarchy due to scarcity of resources and poverty. Protagonist Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter, has lived all her life relatively protected from the decay of society in a gated community in Los Angeles, and has developed an ability that allows her to feel the pain and emotions of others. After her community is destroyed, Olamina travels north with other survivors and tries to start a new community and a new religion called Earthseed.

Recommended by: @monroepubliclibrary on Tumblr.


Title: Infomocracy

Author: Malka Older

What’s it about? In a futuristic world where mini-democracies vote on which global government they want to join, an organization called “Information” oversees everything from the elections to the media. As another election, held every 10 years, approaches, someone is trying to sabotage the election process by taking out Information’s communication system as two parties jockey to stay in the lead. Political operative Ken, Information agent Mishima, and anarchist Domaine team up to find out who is responsible for sabotage.

Recommended by: Nancy Hightower, who reviews the best science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.


Title: The Second Angel

Author: Philip Kerr

What’s it about? In the year 2069, most of Earth’s population has been infected by a slow-acting deadly virus. The only cure is clean blood, housed on the moon and only affordable to the wealthy elite. When wealthy systems designer Dana Dallas finds out his infant daughter needs clean blood to survive, and is denied, Dallas’s actions spark a chain of events that puts him at war with powerful, dangerous enemies.

It’s “one of the more believable near-future dystopias.”

Recommended by: @proactivevoice on Tumblr.


Title: Super Extra Grande

Author: José Miguel Sánchez Gómez, aka Yoss

What’s it about? When two ambassadors involved in peace talks with alien capitalists accidentally get swallowed by an extra –large sea worm, veterinarian Jan Amos Sangan Dongo has to figure out how to rescue them without causing political unrest. In this intergalactic space satire, Yoss derides racist and sexist stereotypes and critiques western environmental policies.

Recommended by: Nancy Hightower, who reviews the best science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.


Title: Stranger in a Strange Land

Author: Robert Heinlein

What’s it about? Heinlein’s classic novel, a Hugo Award winner in 1962, tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, who was born and raised on Mars and is the only survivor of the first manned mission to the planet. A true innocent, Smith learns about human culture, morality and society – and with the support of his friends, eventually founds his own church based on the principals he learned from Martians.

Recommended by: @empathyfarmer on Tumblr.


Title: The City and the city

Author: China Mieville

What’s it about? Part police procedural, part science fiction, Mieville’s novel is about two cities occupying the same geographical space, where citizens must “unsee” the other city and its people or suffer the consequences. That complicates what should be a routine investigation for Inspector Tyador Borlu: a woman’s body is found in his city of Beszel, but the crime was committed in the neighboring city of Ul Qoma, launching a journey both psychological and physical between two rival cities.

“It’s a fantastic and disorienting read.”

Recommended by: @disorderedthinking on Tumblr.


Title: Hystopia

Author: David Means

What’s it about? Eugene Allen, who has just returned from the Vietnam War is writing a fiction book about an alternate universe where JFK has survived and the Vietnam War dragged on for years, leaving thousands of veterans. A government organization, the Psych Corps, erases soldiers’ traumatic memories. One of these veterans, Rake, goes on a killing spree and then kidnaps Meg, a woman with the same name as the novelist’s sister in real life.

Hystopia is a novel within a novel, told from many points of view: Psych Corps agents pursuing Rake and Meg, other veterans helping them - and in the real world, the editors, friends and family of Eugene Allen. The novel is complex without being confusing, weaving our protagonist’s battle with mental illness and his fictional universe into “a beautiful, haunting tale of loss.”

Recommended by: Nancy Hightower, who reviews the best science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.


Title: The Madness Season

Author: C.S. Friedman

What’s it about? Set several hundred years after alien conquerers have taken over Earth, those most likely to rebel - humanity’s best and brightest - have been exiled. Humanity has fallen into subservience. However, there is one man who survived the conquest all those years ago: Daetrin, a vampire. He is immediately banished from earth, and Daetrin is forced to confront his suppressed nature.

It’s “just an amazing character portrait in a very unique setting, im more of a fantasy reader but this is without a doubt one of my favorite sci fi books ever.”

Recommended by: @seekerofpatterns on Tumblr


Title: Contact

Author: Carl Sagan

What’s it about? Set in 1999, astrophysicist Ellie Arroway picks up a message from outer space that she believes is from an intelligent life form. She and a multinational team travel out into deep space to meet them, despite opposition from religious groups and others in the scientific community who fear a Trojan horse or a hoax. Written in 1985, this book was later made into a movie released in 1997.

“Real science makes science fiction magical.”

Recommended by: @iamgettingalife on Tumblr


Title: Station Eleven

Who: Emily St. John Mandel

What’s it about? It follows the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who roam around Michigan 20 years after a fearsome plague has killed most of humanity. It jumps back and forth in time to talk about fame, the nature of celebrity, and the miracle of our strange and brilliant existence.

“It’ll probably make you cry.“

Recommended by: @vividlasagna on Tumblr


Title: The Sparrow: A Novel

Author: Mary Doria Russell

What’s it about? Father Emilio Sandoz is a Jesuit linguist on a secret expedition to another planet, an experience so harrowing that he begins to question the existence of God. What started out as a small mistake snowballs into a horrible catastrophe, and he becomes one of the first to make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Recommended by: @missmireille on Tumblr


Title: Annihilation: A Novel

Author: Jeff Vandermeer

What’s it about? It’s “short, creepy, with an Asian protagonist.” In the first volume of this trilogy, readers follow the all-female twelfth expedition to Area X, a strange place cut off from the rest of civilization. Members of other expeditions often have come back changed. The women of the twelfth group discover a massive topographic anomaly and new life forms, but it’s the secrets the members are keeping from each other that threaten to change everything.

Recommended by: @bananacreamphi on Tumblr


Title: The Lost Time Accidents

Author: John Wray

What’s it about? Walter “Waldy” Tolliver is a man who has quite literally fallen out of time. Trapped in an extra chronological space, he writes letters to a mysterious lover and documents the history of his family’s involvements with “the Accidents,” or holes in space. Waldy, an omniscient narrator, explores the intersection of time travel, mental illness and unrequited love in this expansive novel and spans generations obsessing over the meaning of time.


Title: Lightless

Author: C.A. Higgins

What’s it about? Althea is a computer scientist on an experimental military spacecraft who, rather than bonding with her crewmates, finds herself emotionally connecting with the ship’s artificial intelligence. She finds herself doing whatever she can to protect it when a pair of fugitive terrorists come on board and gain access to the ship, Ananke. As the ship begins to malfunction, claustrophobia and suspicion set in amid those on the ship and Althea questions what it means to be independent and sentient.


Title: Quantum Night

Author: Robert Sawyer

What’s it about? This fast-paced science fiction thriller separates humanity into three groups: Zombies who do what they are told, psychopaths who try to manipulate and control the zombies, and humans who have a communal consciousness. The protagonist, Jim Marchuk is a psychologist who studies psychopaths, works with a team of scientists try to find a way to make the zombies truly human again without turning them into psychopaths.


Title: 2312

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

What’s it about? “2312” painstakingly documents an unraveling conspiracy that has the potential to upend the tense relationships between several human-populated planets in the solar system in the year (you guessed it) 2312. Readers will follow the 135-year-old Swan Er Hong, a world-builder turned performance artist, as she investigates her grandmother’s death, a journey that grows in scope as she travels across space. Admittedly, this was a difficult book to read, but the ideas – from the use of AI technology to the fluidity of human gender – are infectious and will have you mulling over the book for days.


Title: Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future

Author: John Scalzi

What’s it about? A fun mix between a police procedural and science fiction thriller, Scalzi explores a world where a highly contagious virus called Haden’s Syndrome has caused 1 percent of the population to be trapped, awake, in their bodies. In the 25 years since, people have adapted by using humanoid robotic personal transport units controlled by brains to work and live in the physical world. FBI agent Chris Shane, a so-called Haden, investigates a Haden-related murder with veteran agent Leslie Vann. What begins as an investigation into a murder case leads Shane and Vann to explore a burgeoning new human culture.

Don’t forget: leave recommendations in the comments in this format, and we’ll select the best ones.