Amanda’s Beginner Science Fiction Recommendations

Hey, lovelies! I’ve recently had someone ask me what books would be good to introduce them into the science fiction genre. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, specifically dystopian stories, but I love science fiction in all the sub-genres. So, I thought that I would make a list of recommendations that I think would be good for anyone thinking of trying science fiction for the first time.

Dystopian

The Final Six (The Final Six, #1)

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir
This book follows two teens as they’re both selected to train in an astronaut program. Their mission is to make it to one of Jupiter’s moons and terraform it. The Earth is being ravaged by natural disasters and time is of the essence. But not all is as it seems with this mission. With The Final Six, you get teenage astronauts, training to go into outer space, but it takes place on an Earth that’s still mostly recognizable, so you won’t have to learn a whole new world or political system.

Internment by Samira Ahmed
This is set in a near future reality. It’s an extremely heartbreaking and emotional story. Muslim Americans are being taken from their homes and forced into internment camps. We follow Layla as her and her family are put through this. I really recommend the audiobook. I also recommend having a box of tissues nearby.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
This one is perfect for beginners. It’s almost more of a romance than a sci-fi. But there is some stuff to do with astronauts and searching for radio signals. I adore the found family in this book. It will break your heart and the fill you back up with love.

The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
I have another end of the world scenario for you, but this one is aliens. Eight teens think they are the last humans left on Earth. We get to see some of them traveling across a deserted country, not another person to see anywhere. This is set in a familiar Earth. The eight teens need to team up to save the world, but some of them seem more interested in hiding so they can survive rather than saving anything.

The Sound of Stars by Alisha Dow
Another alien take over story. This one is filled with a love for reading and music and other art. Humans are cooped up in ‘centers’ that are controlled by the aliens. But when MoRr1S finds Ellie’s illegal library, the two flee to a potential solution that may just save the Earth. At it’s heart, this story is a love letter to music and the arts. It was beautifully written and I highly recommend it.

Books Set in Space

The Martian by Andy Weir
If you haven’t seen the movie, or even if you have, you should read this book. The main character is trapped on Mars, alone, after his crew, thinking he’s dead, leaves him behind. We follow his journal entries as he devises a way to survive and tries to make it know that he is still alive. I liked the movie, but the book had a sense of humor that was lacking in the movie. Even though it’s a life or death survival story, Weir manages to make it funny.

The Disasters

The Disasters by M.K. England
You want a diverse space adventure filled with a found family that starts out hating you? This is what you’ve been looking for. These are not the Academy trained heroes that are wanted, but they’re the only ones left. I loved this book so much and I wish more people read it. I often compare it to Aurora Rising because what I wanted from that book is what I actually got from The Disasters.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
This is pitched as Hunger Games in space. It definitely is that, but way more brutal. Everyone is classes via color. Red’s being the lowest rung. Our main character is a Red. He manages to disguise himself as a Gold and infiltrate their academy. This whole series is absolutely incredible. It’s violent and gory, but it’s all about fighting for a cause you believe in.

Superheroes

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
I think this series definitely could have been shorter, but I really enjoyed the audiobooks. I know many that really love this series. But I prefer my superheroes in movie format. I think there is a lot to love about this series and it’s not full of a super complicated world or abilities.

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
This is one of my favorite superhero stories. The main character, Nick, has ADHD and the story is told as if we’re in his head. So, it’s a great representation of ADHD. It’s also queer and is filled with the main characters fan fiction. Please, if you like superhero movies and want to try a superhero book, start here.

Time Travel / Alternate Realities

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Chen’s debut novel is full of time travel and creating a life when everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. I really loved this book. I was expecting to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as I did. I think all of the twists and turns were surprising and unexpected. I found myself easily invested in the characters. This is definitely an underrated book. I never see anyone talking about it.

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I found this one randomly at Target and I’m so glad that I let the cover convince me to buy it. This is a middle-grade story that follows three siblings whose mother has disappeared. They discover their mother is missing and further, they are actually from an alternate reality. But things in that reality are not very good. So, the kids ban together, along with a friend of theirs, and try to save their mom. I thought this was a really fun middle-grade story. It’s one that I don’t see talked about often, but I definitely recommend it.

The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This was one of my favorite read of 2020. I love this world and the science in this book. I would call it more of an intermediate science fiction story because it’s not really on a recognizable Earth. But I think the world building and the science isn’t so complex that it’s hard to figure out. The characters are diverse and some are a bit morally gray and I loved it.

Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds
A story of love and being stuck in a time loop trying to change a future that’s already happened. I loved this book so much. It’s emotional with characters that you can’t help but root for. I love this story with my whole heart. It’s got tough topics, but it also highlights joy within tough times. The romance is absolutely beautiful and it still manages to be funny despite the heartbreak that the main character faces.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Sal and Gabi are some kids I’d really love to be friends with. They’re completely hilarious. Sal can make holes in the universe into other realities. This often comes in the form of accidentally pulling his Mami from other realities because in his reality, she’s dead. Sal also has diabetes. This story is so much fun. It’s full of adventure and kids just trying to save the world.

Other

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
What would happen if New York City came alive? Read this book and you will find out. It’s bizarre and I really loved it. The idea of a city becoming sentient is a fascinating one.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This is a contemporary science fiction story, so it’s a bit of both. We get the modern day world as we know it, but also mysterious statues that may or may not be aliens. At least, they’re made from something that’s definitely not of the Earth.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Middlegame is a bit more intermediate, but it’s such an incredible story. It’s a story of magic (sort of) and twins that were separated at birth and given to two different adoptive families. Roger and Dodger manage to find their way to each other over and over again. I loved the complex sibling relationship that we focus on, but I also loved the fascinating alchemy that is also a big focus of the story.

Early Departures

Early Departures by Justin Reynolds
What would you do to have the chance to see a loved one again? If they died suddenly and you had the chance to bring them back for a month or more? Would you take it? Q’s mom does, and that’s what this story is. Q is brought back to life, but he doesn’t know that he ever died. There is a bit of a mystery as to why Q what chosen to be a part of the reanimation experiments. There’s also a mystery as to why Q and Jamal are no longer friends. Ultimately, this story is about two friends coming back together before it’s too late.

These are my recommendations for someone trying to get into science fiction for the first time. Every genre has sub-genres, so I did my best to give recommendations for each that I’ve read and enjoy. Some are a bit more sci-fi than others, but I definitely think there will be something for everyone on this list. Let me know if you’ve read or plan to read any of these!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth: If You Liked This, Then Read That

#SciFiMonth: 1-30 November 2020
ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com.

Hey, lovelies! I did this sort of post for Blogtober and I thought it was so much fun to make, so I thought I would try it out for SciFi Month! Today I’m going to be giving book recommendations based on other books. These are all science fiction books that I enjoyed, but they vary in subgenre and age ranges. So, let’s get into my second edition of ‘if you liked this book, then try that one!

If you liked The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer then you should try Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor. The first book in The Lunar Chronicles follows Cinder, a cyborg, in a cinderella retelling of sorts. She finds herself involved with Prince Kai and suddenly she’s involved in intergalactic politics. Tarnished Are the Stars follows Anna who is known as ‘the Technician.’ She has an illegal clockwork heart and she supplies other people with illegal technology. She meets the Commissioner’s son, Nathaniel, who is determined to turn Anna in to his father. But when Nathaniel’s betrothed, Eliza, comes to Earth Adjacent, the three of them might just bring down the local government. These books were both so great. They both follow unlikely heroes that are excellent mechanics and somehow end up in a plot to overthrow the government.

If you liked The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff then you might like The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book in the series, Illuminae, follows Katy and Ezra after their world has been invaded and they’re forced to flee. Katy is an excellent hacker and manages to figure out what’s going on despite being told nothing. But the only person that she thinks can help her happens to be her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. Sleeping Giants is the first book in the series. It follows Rose, first when she’s a child and finds a giant robot hand, and almost twenty years later she’s a physicist leading a top-secret team that is researching the hand she discovered as a child. I’ve connected these two books for one big reason, they’re both told in a mixed media format. The first book is told in a series of emails, video transcripts, IMs, interviews, and other sorts of documents. The second book is told in mostly interview format with an anonymous interviewer. There are also radio broadcast transcripts and audio journal entries. Both series are told in mixed media. I think they’re similar in another aspect with the way the series progress. All three books The Illuminae Files are following three different couples. All three books in The Themis Files have a significant time jump between each book. Both series are also highly recommended for their audiobook format.

If you liked American Royals by Katharine McGee then you should try The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. American Royals is a reality tv sort of story that is set in modern day, but the twist is that George Washington was made the King of America after the revolution. The story follows his modern day descendants. The Calculating Stars is a bit different. It’s also an alternate reality story. In the 1950s a meteorite falls to the Earth and destroyed a significant amount of the east coast, including Washington, DC. This causes all sorts of environmental issues leading the people to look to the moon as an alternative to live on. We follow Elma York as she realizes that she wants to be on the space mission and not just a calculator for NASA. The common link between these two recommendations are that they are alternate reality stories. But they are also both very much stories that focus on women. Elma wants to be a female astronaut which is unheard of and Beatrice is going to be the first Queen of America.

If you liked Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman then you will probably like Internment by Samira Ahmed. Dry is a story about when California runs out of water. The drought has been an issue for a while, but the taps run dry and the world gets dystopian like very quickly. Internment is set in a near future potential reality where Layla and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim Americans. Both stories are very dark. Dry is dark in a way where peoples survival instincts come out and how it would be to live in a world where it’s every person for themselves. The things people could do for the sake of survival is scary. Internment is a story about hate and how that hate can change the world as we know it. Both stories are filled with characters that aren’t ready to give up. Both stories had tears in my eyes and hope for a better world in my heart.

If you liked The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum you should try The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper. The Weight of the Stars tells the story of Ryann who dreams of being an astronaut. She’s accepted her reality and that this dream isn’t likely to happen. Enter Alexandria, a loner that does everything she can to avoid Ryann’s offer of friendship. Despite this, Alexandra joins Ryann’s chaotic friendship. This is a slow burn romance that focuses on the characters, their dreams, and their growth. The Gravity of Us is about Cal, a successful seventeen-years-old journalist who is forced to move from Brooklyn to Houston because his father was selected for an important NASA mission. Life in Houston is completely different, but when he befriends a fellow astronaut’s son, things start to look up. Just a disclaimer, these are both a bit more contemporary than science fiction, but they both have characters who’s life surrounds people that are currently in space or are about to be in space. Plus I thought it would be okay to have one for those that like the idea of science fiction without most of the sci-fi stuff. These are both that. They both have queer romances and talk about heavy topics in thoughtful and meaningful ways. I loved them both very much.

If you liked Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff you will probably like The Disasters by M.K. England. The tagline for Aurora Rising is “They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.” It follows six misfits as they discover secrets that the government is hiding and do their best to save the universe. The Disasters doesn’t have the same tagline, but it could. “They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.” This book has a cast of five diverse disaster children that are the only ones that know the Academy has been attacked by a terrorist group. They need to stop this group and spread the truth before they can do worse than just take over the Academy. Both stories are a found family group that need to stop a big bad from taking over the universe. Through social media I’ve heard that many people are disappointed in Aurora Rising and it’s sequel, which is why I made this comparison because everything I wanted from Aurora Rising is what I got from The Disasters.

If you liked The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow you might like I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi. The Sound of Stars follows Ellie while she lives in New York City, which is a city controlled by aliens. When one of those aliens, MoRr1S (Morris), finds her hidden (and illegal) library he’s supposed to report her except he doesn’t. The two end up on a road trip, sharing music and books, on their way to try to save humanity. I Hope You Get This Message follows three characters, who are all doing what they need to in what they think may be their final week of life. Earth has received a message from another planet saying that they have one week before they end civilization. Jesse, Cate, and Adeem have only a week to right wrongs and face truths before the world ends. These books are different in the sense that the first had already been invaded by aliens and the second isn’t being invaded but seems to be an expirement of these aliens, one that has been decided a failure and needs to be terminated. The common factors of these books are roadtrips between people that don’t know one another very well, but end up with very strong relationships. Both stories are also filled with diverse and fascinating characters.

If you liked Dune by Frank Herbert you should try Mirage by Somaiya Daud. Dune follows Paul after his father takes him to an ‘inhospitable’ world where the only thing of value is the spice that is produced on this planet. When his family is betrayed, Paul and his mother set out into the desert with one goal, survive, and eventually return and retake the planet that should be under Paul’s rule. Mirage follows Amani after she’s kidnapped so that she can be the body double of the half-Vathek princess, Maram. The Vath have conquered Amani’s planet and with her new place within the palace she wants to see if she can find a way to free her people. I chose these two books because Dune is a really well known book that deals with overtaking planets, learning about the culture of said planet and then Paul trying to do better than those before him. But Mirage is all of those things with a strong female lead written by an author of color who drew from her own heritage. Mirage is an incredible story that more people should read. If you liked the concept of Dune but don’t want to read that huge book, Mirage is only 320 pages and every page is incredibly written, diverse, and filled with an incredible world.

If you liked Renegades by Marissa Meyer you might like The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune. Renegades follows Nova (a villain) while she infiltrates Renegade Headquarters and tries to find weaknesses to bring them down. She lives in a world of prodigies, one much different from our own. Vengeance is her motivation, but things become less and less clear as the series progresses. The Extraordinaries follows Nick, a queer teen with ADHD who is one of the most popular fan fiction writers in the Extraordinary fandom. Nick idolizes one Extraordinary in particular and after he meets this hero, Nick decides he wants to make himself an Extraordinary. These stories are both in the superhero realm of science fiction. They different in the sense of the worlds they take place in. Renegades is in a world where it’s completely changed from our world while The Extraordinaries is mostly our world, but with a few rare individuals that have superpowers. But both stories follow characters that might not be on the best path. I really enjoyed both stories that were filled with interesting abilities and characters I couldn’t help but love.

If you liked Year One by Nora Roberts you will probably like The Fever King by Victoria Lee. Year One follows a cast of characters as the world ends via a sickness that spreads unbelievably fast and those that recover are left with gifts. There are some that are immune, but the world descends into chaos as the world as we know it ends. This cast of characters must figure out a new beginning now that the world has come to an end. In The Fever King, Noam lives in what used to be the U.S. He’s caught the sickness and is the sole survivor of his family. He’s also left with the gift of technopathy. Noam gets recruited into what’s basically a military of people that have survived the sickness and now have abilities. Noam joins with hopes to change the way the world has become. He wants to fight for what is right. Both of these stories deal with how the world can change once it ends. They both have the world ending with some sort of sickness and that sickness results with some people having special abilities. I really enjoyed them both.

I ended up finding way more books than I intended, but I was having too much fun and just sort of went with it. So, here you have it. Ten comparisons and twenty books total. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and agree or disagree with my pairings.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth – Diverse Science Fiction

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com.

Hi, lovelies! I was inspired by a friends post from last year’s #SciFiMonth and wanted to do my own version. Kal from Reader Voracious did a post about diverse YA science fiction last year and I thought of so many books I could do for my own version. So, thanks to Kal for the inspiration and let’s get right into it. I’m going to list them by age range, starting with middle grade.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee: This story was a mix of Korean folklore, science fiction, and a bit of magic. We follow Min, who has fox-magic (which is thought to no longer be around). She sets out to find her brother and ends up way over her head. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve loved all of the stories that have been published through Rick Riordan Presents. I loved the combination of things that made this story what it was. It’s definitely one I’ll be adding to my daughters library. Also, the audiobook was great.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez: This is my second favorite of the books that have come from Rick Riordan Presents. Sal is a boy who lives in Miami. He has diabetes, but he also has the ability to create holes in the universe. Sal is a little firecracker, but Gabi is even more so. They both come from fascinating families that I couldn’t help but adore. Sal and his father are Cuban and that is a big part of the story too. Sal and Gabi team up to try to fix the holes he’s created in the universe. Sal is also grieving his Mami. I think this is such a great middle grade story.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee: In what used to be the U.S. a magical virus has infected some, leaving them with magical abilities, and most others dead. Noam gets sick and wakes up in the hospital as a technopath. This attracts interest from government officials in ways that Noam isn’t sure he likes. This story gets pretty wild even though the fries 15% or so is pretty slow. Noam is bisexual, Colombian, and Jewish. This story is full of grey morals and I really enjoyed it.

The Disasters by M.K. England: This disastrous found family is one of my all time favorites. Nax is bisexual and comes from a Muslim family. He’s made mistakes and has a lot of self-doubts, but it was really great to see him overcome it. Then there’s Rion who is black, queer, and British. He’s the son of a diplomat, so he always knows exactly what to say. I loved the flirtations and hints of a potential romance between Rion and Nax. It was just enough that it didn’t take center stage over the rest of the story. Case is the third point of the sort of, but not really, love triangle. She’s super smart and struggles with anxiety. Next up is Zee, who is trans, and a kick-ass doctor who will literally kick your ass. Finally, there’s Asra, who is Muslim and we see her wearing a hijab and taking time to pray. She’s also the stepkid of a crime boss that she wants to take down. They essentially have to take down the government and it’s wonderful.

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune: “A queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.” Nick lives in a world where ‘extraordinaries’ exist, people with special abilities. After he meets his idol, he’s decided he needs to do whatever he can to become an extraordinary. This book was so wonderful. It highlights the ADHD experience, friendship, fan fiction writing, and many other important things.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud: Amani is kidnapped to play body double to the cruel half Vathek princess, Maram. Too much happens in this series for me to summarize. Amani is amazing. Her romance is great. Maram is horrible at first but has great development. I ended the series really loving her. They both get romances, one of which is female/female. I believe it’s also inspired from Moroccan culture. This one is going to make my 2020 favorites list (and the audiobooks are great!)

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor: This book is compared to The Lunar Chronicles often, but it’s honestly better (and I really liked that series). Set in a world called Earth Adjacent (because technology destroyed Earth) we follow The Technician who illegally helps people with mechanic work. Then the Commissioner’s son, Nathaniel, finds a lead to the Technician’s identity. Things get a little wild here with overthrowing the government and an arranged marriage. Eliza, the Queen’s spy, comes to Earth Adjacent and things get even more exciting. There’s a romance between two female characters that I completely adored.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: Get ready to be confused. I was confused for the entire series and despite that I enjoyed the shit out of this book. I’m going to talk about all three books. The writing was incredible. There are several perspectives we follow and they are all written so well. There’s one that’s written in second person and it was such an interesting way to tell the story. The characters draw you in and the world is incredible. I just cannot say enough good things about this series. I’m hoping to read the rest of Jemisin’s backlist titles in 2021.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: This series is such a fun one. Each book follows a different set of characters. This universe is so interesting. There are so many different species. It was such a treat to learn about them all. Some are very specific about gender roles and how they change as the species age. I think this book did a wonderful job of showing a unique, interesting, and diverse universe.

These are some of my favorite diverse science fiction books for all different age ranges. They’re all diverse for different reasons and they’re all wonderful books that I highly recommend. What diverse books would you recommend?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.