Both break out novelists and well established writers alike will agree that the books below stand apart from the crowd in the best way possible! While not being a huge Sci Fi fan myself, I must say that these five novels have caught and kept my attention. Not every title is newly published, so you may be surprised to find a previously undiscovered gem.
Corrosion: The Corroding Empire: Book 1 by Johan Kalsi
Johan Kalsi is Finland’s hottest science fiction author. An accomplished geneticist as well as a 6’3″ ex-Finnish Marine, in CORROSION, Kalsi shows himself to be more Asimovian than Asimov himself. CORROSION marks his English-language debut.
Galactic society is ruled by algorithms. From interstellar travel and planetary terraforming to artificial intelligence and agriculture, every human endeavor has become completely dependent upon the hypercomplex equations that optimize the activities making life possible across hundreds of inhabited worlds. Throughout the galaxy, Man has become dependent upon the reliable operation of ten million different automated systems.
And when things begin to go wrong and mysterious accidents begin to happen no one has any idea what is happening, except for a sentient medical drone and the First Technocrat of Continox. But their ability to even begin to try fixing the unthinkably complicated problem of galaxy-wide algorithmic decay is made considerably more difficult by the fact the former is an outlaw and the latter is facing a death sentence.
“Scalzi is one of the slickest writers that SF has ever produced.” ―The Wall Street Journal on The Human Division
“Fans of Game of Thrones and Dune will enjoy this bawdy, brutal, and brilliant political adventure” ―Booklist on The Collapsing Empire
The Enemy Within by Scott Burn
Scott Burn, a former lawyer turned writer, creator of the science fiction comic book series AGON, and writer of several successful feature screenplays is now dominating the Sci Fi writing scene with his debut novel, THE ENEMY WITHIN.
Seventeen-year-old Max has always felt like an outsider. When the agonizing apocalyptic visions begin, he decides suicide is his only escape. Instead, he soon finds himself in an institution under the guidance of a therapist who sees something exceptional in him. Just as he begins to leave the hallucinations behind, Max discovers the visions aren’t just in his head.
There are three others who have shared those same thoughts, and they’ve been searching for Max. Like him, they are something more than human. Each of them possesses certain abilities, which they’re going to need as a covert military group begins hunting them down. As the danger escalates, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. In the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.
“This is a fine Sci-Fi story anchored to firm thematic material… A great combination of suspenseful action and empathetic characterization based on relevant ideas, which can be enjoyed on several levels. Highly recommended for all Sci-Fi and general novel fans.” ―Airborn Press
“A riveting read that will keep you on the edge of your seat even after you’ve finished it. I was extremely impressed with this author’s debut novel and cannot wait to see what else is in store for us from him!” ―Urban Book Reviews
Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
The thrilling sequel to the Hugo and Nebula-winning Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.
And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.
But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.
After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?
“There’s more vivid imagination in a page of Nnedi Okorafor’s work than in whole volumes of ordinary fantasy epics.” ―Ursula Le Guin
“A perfect dove-tailing of tribal and futuristic, of sentient space ships and ancient cultural traditions, Binti was a beautiful story to read.” ―Little Red Reviewer
Liquid Gambit by Bonnie Milani
Bonnie Milani is soon to be a household name. Her short story ‘A Hot Day on Titan’ has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, her novel ‘Home World’ won the 2016 EVVY awards’ 1st place in the science fiction category, and most recently, her novel ‘Home World’ has been awarded the BooksGoSocial Gold Quality Mark.
Death is never more than an airlock away for the denizens of Hell, the last deck before the Void on the last station in human space.
It’s a place where justice is for sale and slavers hawk their human merchandise to the highest bidder. But to Rick, a scarred, bitter Lupan warrior, it’s home – or at least the one place in the known universe where he can ignore all the death warrants on him throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. It’s also the place where a few drops of the most precious liquid in all of human space can buy him a berth on the last ship back to his birth world. Until a mysterious, vaguely familiar woman walks into the dive Rick runs. And brings his deadly, ugly past in with her.
Somehow Rick must unlock the secrets she carries. Because if he fails, he will lose far more than just his life.
“Liquid Gambit is a futuristic thrilling adventure; with suspense so strong, I wasn’t sure what was coming next.” ―Boundless Book Reviews.
“I Want more. Milani is the next powerhouse of sci-fi.” ―Marion Pagano.
Smartbrain (Penchant Series Book 1) by G. F. Smith
Smartbrain, a two-part novel and the first in the Penchant Series, introduces the Reader to a burgeoning, future universe where new, uber-immersive consumer technology creates the potential for worlds of augmented realism that exceeds ordinary, high-definition reality by inestimable measures. A 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards “Finalist”
New Consumer Tech: SMARTPHONE STREAMS DIRECTLY INTO HUMAN BRAIN
Part 1: Mind
Sarah Whiting, young, attractive, tech-savvy homebody, accepts a potentially lucrative offer to join a product/market analysis team that is performing the final evaluation of the believed technological breakthrough of the century before its release to the public. As the incredible opportunity unfolds, Sarah finds herself smitten with the technology, as well as with the project’s lead engineer. Even with the contrast of taking care of her Alzheimer’s-ridden father, it all seems like a dream-come-true for Sarah. That is, until she abruptly learns that she may now be unwittingly mired in a dangerous ruse of international deception, and that the man she’s fallen for, as well as this new, highly transformative technology may originate from somewhere else, other than Earth.
Part 2: Matter
Sarah’s world is further thrown into chaos and confusion when she wakes up with little memory of her recent past and is told that she is a victim of severe brain injury brought on by the very technology she had been working with. Sarah is lost in the revelation, loath to accept the reality being told her, and soon falls into a downward spiral fueled by a husband she doesn’t remember, along with the abysmal fear that she may actually be losing her mind. What Sarah doesn’t realize is that as she fights to gain a hold on what is real, others are in the process of risking their lives in a desperate attempt to free her from her perceptual prison. Filled with guilt, the very man who blames himself for Sarah’s cerebral incarceration begins to work with a group of highly trained professionals who might just be Sarah’s only hope of ever returning to her real life.
“G. F. Smith’s “Smartbrain” novel is a well written, intriguing look at our own civilization and our technology, from the viewpoint of our own society, and from the viewpoint of envious aliens…I was fascinated by the new technology, and drawn-into the story by the likeable characters and the fully-engaging plot…I look forward to the next book in the series.” ―John C. Meyer
Make it a year of curiosity! ―G. F. Smith
That woman smelled of trouble the first time I saw her. If I’d known just how much trouble that’d be, I probably would’ve cut and run right then. Probably.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have noticed her at all, except it was eight bells, station day. That was too early for my evening crowd, and too late for the poor sots who’d been in here when Bayliss and his Sec team arrived. The usual run of deckhands and pickpockets hadn’t made it up from Hell yet, because dockside shifts on Bogue Dast Station didn’t change for another hour. So both my bar and the corridor outside it were close to empty when she stopped to read the ‘Rick’s Bar’ sign flashing above my hatch.
The in-draft wafted her scent to me clear as good air: worry, tinged with fear. Nothing unusual in that kind of scent, not down here on V Deck. Nothing unusual in her, either. Her graying hair looked home-cropped, her face gray-tired. Not at all the kind of woman who usually starts gin joint blood matches. She was wrapped in one of those big black greatcoats, the kind favored by quacks and faith healers all across the Commonwealth rim. That coat could mean trouble – folks on the wrong end of quackery don’t usually live long enough to finish paying their station fees. And another unexplained death in my vicinity was the last thing I needed just now. Only that wasn’t what got my attention. What perked my ears was that somehow she made me think suddenly of warm kitchens and sweet smells and my wife’s good cooking.
“You want help with the clean up?” Calhoun, the younger of my two visiting clansmen, lifted a silver-tipped ear in question. Thanks to Bayliss, my bar was empty except for them. Well, them and a couple of shipless drunks snoring on the counter.
The sound of his voice made the woman squint in at us. Maybe it was the way we all three perked ears at her that put her off. Or maybe it was the amber gleam of our eyes in the dimness of the bar. Lupan night eyes always make human-onlys nervous for some reason.
Whatever the cause, she moved on. But I had a feeling she’d be back. I wasn’t sure I liked the feeling. I told myself it didn’t matter. Calhoun was right. I needed to get the place cleaned up before the evening crowd showed. I shook my head and ruffled the mane between his ears to let him know I appreciated the offer.
“You sure?” That was Khouros, elder clansman and Exec on the Orpheus, one of the few Lupan ships that still put in here at Bogue Dast Station. Beneath the silver sweep of his ears, his eyes took in the tumble of chairs and glassware littering the floor. The fine mane covering his head and shoulders had thinned since last I’d seen him, and the silver tips of his wolf-ears had dulled to gray, but his amber eyes were still clear and his fangs as sharp as ever.
“Yah, I’m sure. Thanks, but I’ve got it.”
“Wasn’t asking about the clean-up.” Khouros’ ears dipped in warning. “Word is that maintenance found another slaver drifting outside one of the locks.” He lifted an ear, questioning. “You sure you don’t want a berth out on Orpheus?”
There was a thought that made the hairs in my under-mane tingle. I shot a glance at the lumps slumped over the counter. They were still snoring, but that didn’t mean they were asleep. Or that they weren’t Bayliss’ spies. In case they were I made a show of studying the ragged scars along the backs of my fingers, mementos of where my captors had ripped my talons out
What makes a good Sci-Fi or Fantasy novel? The world building, diverse and fleshed out characters, the plausibility, the gripping plot? Well, the answer depends from person to person. So while I can’t answer this question I can answer another: what are some good Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and series? Here are some much recommended novels you just might enjoy.
The ‘Graceling’ series (Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue) by Kristin Cashore
Each book is different and all are very enjoyable. Cashore’s writing manages to bring me to laughter and tears and sometimes both at the same time. These three companion novels are not only a fun read but provide different viewpoints on relationships, both romantic and platonic, loyalty to country and people, living through wars, and torn families. The world building is shown well and through beautiful prose. Each protagonist is a dynamic and unique woman with her own stories to tell. None of the books feel like a repetition of each other and can be read in any order though some suggest that you read them in order of their release. I have reread Graceling and Bitterblue three times and reread Fire countless more.
‘The Keys to the Kingdom’ series by Garth Nix
This seven-part series is a wonderful blend of sci-fi, fantasy, humour, and adventure. Nix introduces us to an unwilling hero, Arthur, in Mister Monday and we see him grow and learn throughout the series. His friends are all individuals with interesting personalities and motives. The betrayals and problems Arthur faces can be dark at times so I don’t recommend it solely for preteens, I think older age groups will enjoy them just as much and understand the subtext better. Having each of the seven ‘Trustees’ controlled by one of the seven deadly sins is another fun aspect. The religious features within the series provide new things to ponder about, as well as the historical figures such as the Pied Piper and the Ancient Mariner. It can be very reminiscent of old legends and fables, just look at the name of our protagonist.
‘Shatterbones’ by Robert Brown
Brown’s novel is an interesting take on the whole apocalyptic/mutant scenario. Children, now vampires, battle with other great monsters such as giants and behemoth-like creatures, and so enjoyable fight scenes play out within the novel. Characters are interesting in how they use their gifts, for good or for bad, and Brown does bring to life some interesting characters (pun intended). The dialogue is entertaining and sometimes even inspirational. The political aspect is very readable. Shatterbones is a horror so I recommend this to young adults and older.
‘A Face Like Glass’ by Frances Hardinge
This beautiful fantasy is set in the underground world of Caverna where people are born with faces ‘as blank as untouched snow’. The very premise of having skilled mastercrafts people teach others for a price to convey emotions on their face is incredibly intriguing. Hardinge’s cast of characters is so diverse and interesting that one can fall in love with it based on them alone. Our protagonist Neverfell, named so because she fell into a vat of Neverfell cheese, goes on a dangerous journey through courts and murder and mystery and takes us along so we don’t get lost. After all, it is very easy to get lost in the caves of Caverna. The world building is captivating and the plot is gripping. This book is a truly wonderful read and I constantly recommend it to the people around me. As a general rule I would say to always pick up a Hardinge book, I have yet to read one that disappointed me.
The ‘Rose’ series by Holly Webb
For the younger readers I recommend the four part series that bewitched me as a pre-teen. The story of a young orphan, alchemy, and magic in the streets of a British town is a delightful tale with mystery and fantasy. The details behind magic are not too intricate and complicated which makes them all the more enjoyable for that age. Rose and the ensemble of magic and non magic people captured my attention; it’s always helpful to have a likeable protagonist and some interesting villains, which this series does. The mystery of who Rose is is a question that stays with you throughout the series and the answer is not a disappointment. They are quick reads and, depending on your speed and time availability, can be read within a week though I drew it out so I could savour the books for longer.
‘I, Nemo’ by J Dharma Windham and Deanna Windham
This clever retelling of ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne provides a backstory to Captain Nemo is ‘his very own words’! The lost journal idea has been done before but it was fresh here in Windham’s book. The steampunk vibe paired with the jungle setting captures the attention and makes the book a fast read. The descriptions of the seas and the battles are well written and very vivid. The characters are well thought out with our protagonist having fun personality traits and an ambiguous morality. It’s a novel for so many people; adventure lovers, sci-fi lovers, steampunk lovers. This is definitely on my recommended list!
‘The Enemy Within’ by Scott Burn
This heartwrenching story of a teen who dreams of an apocalyptic future and finds himself institutionalised for suicidal thoughts as a result will pull you in and keep it’s hold on you after. Max and the friends he makes are fleshed out and well written characters who give you all the feels. Their dialogue is realistic, something that can be hard to find in many novels centered around teenagers. What separates this sci-fi from others published at the moment are the identity issues, morality issues, and the survival issues. It showcases real life but with aliens on the side. It also opens up the discussion on teenage suicide and abuse. Burn has a rich imagination and brings something fresh to the genre which I think many people would enjoy and should read.
Clouds of smoke and ash swirled through the city. Tidal waves of fire consumed every helix-shaped building that rose into the burning sky. Max watched the colossal structures collapse with crushing force, shaking the earth.
Agonized screams echoed around him, but all Max could see through the scorching haze was the thousands of charred corpses – their arms outstretched as if reaching for salvation. Brittle bones turned to dust beneath him as he tried to run, but there was nowhere to hide.
No one ever survived the inferno – no one except Max, who was forced to watch a world’s end over and over each day.
Cold, wet pavement pressed against his face. Max opened his eyes to find himself in the alley. Rain deluged the streets. He winced as he pushed himself upright, his fingernails raw from clawing at the pavement while in the grip of the last vision.
Max didn’t want to die, but he knew there was only one escape and he’d take that tonight. Clutching the bolt cutter, he stepped out of the shadows into the night.
G. F. Smith
“My feet are cold; it’s cold outside!”
“No, it’s over seventy degrees outside, Dad. Your feet are cold because you put your shoes in the freezer again.”
“Freezer? What on earth are you talking about? Why in the world would I put my shoes in the freezer?”
“I don’t know, Dad. Why would you put your shoes in the freezer? You tell me,” she said, looking between the busy road and her father.
“Well, I…don’t know. I wouldn’t have a clue.” He looked at her, caught her worried glance. He suddenly felt sadness, a fleeting sense of remorse. Something sparked in his mind, but then he forgot what it was. He turned away and looked out the window. Something wasn’t right, but he just couldn’t figure it out. His brow tensed and wrinkled.
Sarah Frances Whiting drove carefully after dropping her father off at the Merit Ptah Medical Center. Her mind was inundated with thoughts of him, his apparent worsening condition, his stay at the center for tests, as well as her forthcoming job interview, which she was en route to. The clearly insane drivers in Los Angeles were not helping. As soon as she turned on to the street, she was nearly rear-ended by a pokey-haired, suit-clad man intensely multi-tasking on his smartphone.
“Watch what the…watch what you’re doing!” she grumbled, as she switched her attention between the rear-view mirror and what was in front of her. The driver behind her was getting a little too close as traffic inched and stopped, and her car’s rear proximity alarm was making Sarah edgy by blaring every twenty or so seconds.
The alarm sounded again and Sarah snapped. She slammed the gear shift into park and leaned out of the window.
“Hey, you mind keeping your eyes on the driving!” she yelled, scowling.
The man heard the remark and looked up with a defensive frown. He held both hands up, Smartphone still in hand, and presented a what’s the problem? air of innocence. He then shook his head with annoyance and within seconds changed lanes, mumbling, “Crazy bitch, you lost your mind?” out of the side of his mouth as he increased his distance.
Sarah Whiting rolled her eyes and bit the inside of her lip.
She turned onto the highway.
After two hours of driving she arrived at the campus’ tree-shrouded parking lot.
She was cutting it close on time.
Sarah exited the high-mileage, 2047 two-seater, Praxis-Sport. She grabbed her backpack, reaching into it as she stood up. She shut the door with her slender, athletic hip, hurriedly turned, and as she walked, pinched her streaked, light brown hair back on both sides with small clips.
She was barely going to make it.
J. Dharma Windham & Deanna Windham
In My Mind’s Eye
Let this chronicle serve as the true and unvarnished tale of my life irrespective of the nonsense written about me by that knave—professor Pierre Arronax. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, I regret more than this: That I ignored my better judgement and allowed that pompous old fraud on board my Nautilus.
The man was a fool to the bone and a tyrant to his manservant, Eduard Conseil, a gentle and inoffensive Belgian. Then there was Ned Land, a coarse and ignorant waterfront lout I ought to have slain at once but spared out of deference to his accidental fellow travelers. Fortunately, we shall not cross paths with these fellows in this first volume, and for that we can all be thankful.
Captain Nemo The Nautilus 1878