I’m not really into science fiction…but I am a little curious. Maybe there’s something in the sci-fi genre that might possibly appeal to me, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. And what if I want to read about more than just space wars and droids? If these thoughts have crossed your mind, you’ve come to the right place. Science Fiction gets a bad rap from outsiders as having all robots and starships and no love or humanity. True, some “hardcore” SF can fall into that category. But just like other genres, subcategories of science fiction cross boundaries into other areas. And these “crossovers” can provide the perfect gateway for the SF curious. If you habitually skirt the science fiction section, I gotta tell you, you’re missing out, my friend. No matter which bookstore aisle you normally haunt, we offer recommendations below that’ll whet your SF appetite.
ROMANTIC SCIENCE FICTION
The earliest science fiction was once labeled scientific romance, which just meant fiction and scientific writing came together and produced offspring. Now, plenty of subgenres mix love and science (and a love of science), and yes, SF smut. Stories about planetary romance (intergalactic connections), alien abductions (love in unusual circumstances), and future earth (flings in the future) blossomed.
Romance readers looking to dip their toes into romantic science fiction should try these (sorry, no smut in this list):
- Saronna’s Gift by Carmen Webster Buxton (planetary romance)
- Unchained Memory by Donna S. Frelick (first in alien abduction series)
- Bannockburn Binding by Tracy Cooper-Posey (future earth)
SCIENCE FICTION MYSTERY
From cozies, whodunits, and wild thrillers, the mystery genre invites readers to discover clues along with the protagonist. Blending science fiction with mystery expands the boundaries of the criminal’s territory and their capability for terror. Call me demented, but sometimes I love a story where the criminal gets away with murder… literally. (Insert villainous laughter here.)
If you habitually skirt the science fiction section, I gotta tell you, you’re missing out, my friend.
Those who love solving the mysteries before the novel’s detective should consider these possible suspects:
- Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (cyberpunk mystery)
- A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (world-building murder mystery)
- Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski (root for the dystopian outlaw)
HISTORICAL SCIENCE FICTION
Ahhh… the good old days. When time travelers disturb the space-time continuum, or the past isn’t where you left it last. Historical science fiction looks a lot like straight historical fiction but with scientific twist. I mean, how else would Bill and Ted get their excellent first-hand history lessons? Historical science fiction imagines pasts more Marty McFly than U.S History 101’s depictions of the Wild West (DeLorean not included).
Readers experience pasts far different than they learned in high school with main characters that make history come alive in these picks:
- Kindred by Octavia Butler (time traveling to antebellum plantation)
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (alternate history of WWII)
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (magic during the Napoleonic Wars)
LITERARY SCIENCE FICTION
Nominated for Biggest Snob in the sci fi yearbook, literary fiction gets an unfair snotty reputation. The book trade separates out novels with “literary merit” that supposedly transcend popular fiction with serious reflections on the human condition. We say screw the snoots! Science fiction contains literary works far beyond the classic Chronicles of Narnia and The War of the Worlds.
Gain your reputation as the World’s Most Interesting Human by referencing dark commentary on humanity in these highly acclaimed works:
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (genderless alien)
- Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (social media post-humanism)
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (social classism)
YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION
No list would be complete without a nod to YA fiction and their bildungsroman (coming of age) stories. With the massive popularity of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, YA science fiction mainstreamed with these box office blockbusters. Offering relevant social commentary while based in other worlds/times, YA sci fi captivates both the young and the young at heart.
Relive a youth much darker or more magical than your own with:
- The Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson (Carib-influenced bildungsroman)
- Roderick, or the Education of a Young Machine by John Sladek (a robot’s coming of age)
- Unwind by Neal Shusterman (harvest camps for unwanted children)
There you have it; consider yourself firmly planted in the sci-fi fold. Don’t be shy! Now, head on over to the sci-fi section. We’ll see you there.